Saturday, January 19, 2019

James Baker And Michael Sussman Revisited

Jeff Carlson has a summary out of James Baker's testimony to the House. Baker, a close friend of James Comey, was General Counsel for the FBI, which is to say that he worked directly with Comey. Baker is currently the subject of a criminal leak investigation. The summary of Baker's testimony--which is mostly very self serving--doesn't contain any bombshells but, as usual, is worth reading. It is mostly concerned with Baker's interaction with Michael Sussman, which I covered extensively in two previous posts. Nevertheless, this aspect of the Russia Hoax is well worth reviewing, if only to remind ourselves of aspects that we may have forgotten:

James Baker Identifies Another Source Behind the FISA Application

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

Here, below, are the two paragraphs of Sussman's bio from his page at Perkins Coie, the law firm where he's a partner--yes, the same law firm that represented the DNC and laundered DNC money to Glenn Simpson's Fusion GPS (that part's not in his official bio). I urge you to peruse the rest:

Michael Sussmann, formerly with the U.S. Department of Justice, is a nationally-recognized privacy, cybersecurity and national security lawyer. He is engaged on some of the most sophisticated, high-stakes matters today, such as his representation of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in their responses to Russian hacking in the 2016 presidential election. This work was detailed in the best-selling books The Apprentice (2018), The Perfect Weapon (2018), Russian Roulette (2018), and Hacks (2017).
Michael has been ranked as a “Privacy and Data Security Expert” in the Chambers Global and Chambers USA directories. He is often quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and other media. His legal work has been cited by investigative reporters in two other important books: Power Wars (2015) and Dragnet Nation (2015). He has provided Congressional testimony and litigated national security cases in federal court.

You'll see why I said in the first post "In a Hillary Clinton administration the sky would have been the limit for Sussman--or close to it," especially when you read the rest of the details of his involvement with the FBI during the 2016 campaign.

Friday, January 18, 2019

UPDATED: Mueller Nukes Buzzfeed--Why?

Conservative blogs are accurately characterizing the Special Counsel office's statement re Buzzfeed's fake news story as "rare." As Tucker Carlson put it, Mueller's office has virtually never commented on anything, but in this statement Mueller's office flatly rejects Buzzfeed's claim that President Trump personally directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress regarding the Trump Moscow deal--which was basically moribund by the time 2016 rolled around. Fox News says it nicely:

The statement is remarkable in that Mueller's team rarely issues statements in response to news stories. But BuzzFeed's story sparked immense interest from Democrats, who called for renewed investigations and even suggested the allegations could be a basis for impeachment proceedings.

For example, Adam Schiff immediately rushed out onto the limb:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., whose committee is already investigating the president and his ties to Russia, called the allegations in the report “the most serious to date.”
“The allegation that the president of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date,” Schiff said in a statement. “We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”

And that was a crowded limb:

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

UPDATED: If Confirmed, Barr Will Be The Attorney General In Full

That, in effect, is what Bill Barr told Chuck Schumer today in a private meeting. Schumer asked Barr three questions and got straightforward answers. This is by Schumer's own account.

There's been a fair amount of disinformation put out about Barr, claims that he has made commitments with regard to the Mueller witchhunt, etc. The fact is that Barr has clearly stated that, if confirmed, he would exercise the full powers of the office of Attorney General with no prior restraints imposed upon himself. He said he would not fire Mueller "without cause," which is to say, he reserved the power to fire Mueller for cause. He said he wants the Mueller witchhunt to run its course, because he thinks that will be best for President Trump and the American people--and that he favors transparency for the same reason. No one who has been following this tawdry attempt to hamstring an elected president or even to run him out of office for purely political reasons can possibly suppose that the Deep State desires transparency.

So, on to Schumer's three questions.

First, Schumer asked Barr whether Barr would recuse himself if the Ethics Officer at DoJ said he should. Barr said he'd make his own decision. Barr will not be another Jeff Sessions.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

UPDATED: The FBI: Working Hand In Glove With Clinton Operatives

Jeff Carlson has followed up his revelations regarding the leaked (to him) testimony of former FBI attorney Lisa Page with a similar service regarding the leaked (to him) testimony of DoJ attorney Bruce Ohr. When I commented on Page's testimony I suggested that, for the most part, there were no major revelations. However, Ohr's testimony is pretty much dynamite. In what follows I'll try to pull out what I regard as the highlights from Ohr's testimony--although Carlson's long and detailed account is well worth careful study. In doing so I will concentrate on what was going on with the FBI, Ohr and the DoJ, and Fusion GPS before the election, rather than afterward.

As a preliminary, I want to address what is a recurring issue. What exactly was Ohr's role in serving as a conduit of information between Fusion GPS/Orbis (Glenn Simpson/Christopher Steele) and the FBI?

Ohr himself clearly viewed himself as an asset (informant) of some sort for the FBI. For example, he refers to himself as having an FBI "handler" and he acknowledges that he knew he was going against DoJ policy in not informing his superiors of the role he was playing. At the same time, he also knew that the FBI had direct contact with Steele at times, and we know that Steele was an established FBI asset. Two assets, one handling or, at least, servicing the other? Why? To complicate matters, Glenn Simpson, the head of Fusion GPS, clearly knew that he was passing material to the FBI through Steele and even, at times, through his good friend Ohr. Yet Simpson didn't want to meet with the FBI and the FBI seemed to prefer using Ohr as a go between with Steele.

Simpson's motives for maintaining a distance from the FBI are clear enough. Simpson would naturally want to avoid any risk of being identified as an FBI asset, if his role should become public (as it has). Moreover, he would also want to maintain control over what material that he held was passed to the FBI. The FBI would also probably prefer not to be linked to Simpson, who was known to be an extreme Democrat partisan as well as unscrupulous in his business. The FBI, on the other hand, would also want to avoid linkage to Steele in this matter, since Steele was a known former MI6 operative linking the Intel Community with political operatives--on both sides of the Atlantic. Ohr, who had legitimate professional reasons to go to FBIHQ, served well as a cutout to avoid accidental sightings of the FBI with Steele or Simpson and to afford the FBI some measure of deniability regarding the sourcing of the materials they were using.

On the other hand, Ohr's explanation for why he claims he didn't inform his superiors--that he wanted the matter to be handled by "career officials" rather than political appointees--doesn't ring true, as the questioning Representatives made clear by pointing out that Ohr, a DoJ official, several times interjected himself into the chain of custody of collected evidence--a no-no. Presumably, from the FBI's and Simpson's point of view, that would be Ohr's personal problem. Interestingly, however, while Ohr claims to have wanted to keep DoJ political appointees in the dark, Lisa Page made it quite clear in her testimony that the FBI had no such qualms:

Saturday, January 12, 2019

UPDATED: Lisa Page, Brennan, And The Dossier--Once Again

There's a fair amount of commenting going on about recent leaks of "information", first by Jeff Carlson in his fact based, extensive commentary on Lisa Page's House testimony, and secondly in the NYT's vaguely sourced narrative about the FBI opening an investigation on Trump (this is not actually news). My view is that Lisa Page's testimony, while certainly interesting, produced no bombshells--no breakthrough factual revelations that truly advance our understanding of the Russia Hoax. What her testimony does offer is a view of interaction between the FBI and DoJ with regard to Trump and a better understanding of who the main players were. Page's testimony also--and for me this its most important aspect--strongly confirm the centrality of the dossier for the entire Russia Hoax. This comes out in her testimony regarding former CIA Director John Brennan's apparent knowledge of the dossier material, which Page appears to find genuinely puzzling. This comes up in an exchange regarding Brennan's briefing of former Senator Harry Reid at the end of August, 2016, in which Brennan mentioned the dossier:

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Good News Rosenstein

Rod Rosenstein will resign from the position of Deputy Attorney General, effective with the confirmation of Bill Barr as Attorney General. This is very good news for the Trump Administration, in that the DAG oversees the daily running of the DoJ and is the immediate supervisor of the FBI Director.

I've made no secret of my belief that the appointment of Rosenstein as DAG was part of a corrupt deal Jeff Sessions made with Chuck Schumer and possibly some Republican Senators to get confirmed as AG. Fox News provided a handy reprise of Rosenstein's first days as DAG:

Fox News Research

 Rosenstein's First Days at DOJ:
•4/25: Confirmed 94-6
•5/9: Wrote memo outlining concerns w/ Comey’s conduct
•5/9: Trump fired Comey citing Rosenstein memo
•5/16: Reportedly raised idea of recording Trump, invoking 25th amend. to remove Trump
•5/17: Appointed Mueller
166 8:48 AM - Sep 24, 2018

'Nuff said--his conflicts, stonewalling, and protection of the Deep State/Swamp have been well documented.

At the time Barr was nominated, it was widely reported that Barr had made a condition for his acceptance the ability to name his own DAG. While it was added that he had withdrawn that condition, the suspicion remains strong that one of his earlier acts as AG would have been to fire Rosenstein, and that Rosenstein--knowing his days were numbered--decided to leave ahead of the broom in the hope of salvaging his reputation. Such as it is.

This development should greatly strengthen Barr's hand at DoJ--as witness his reported condition--especially in cleaning out corrupt career players. It should also give him a trustworthy aid to oversee DoJ while Barr personally grapples with the Russia Hoax.

Monday, January 7, 2019

“Bill was just an attack dog that was loosed on us”

The WSJ today has a story about what Bill Barr, Trump's nominee for Attorney General, has been doing since leaving DoJ in 1994: Trump’s Attorney General Pick Earned a Reputation as a Fighter in the Corporate World (originally published as 'Aggressive Tactics Mark Attorney General Nominee Attorney General Nominee Known for Assertiveness.'). The short answer is that Barr has been very busy. He became a central figure in the Wild West world of telecommunications deregulation between 1996 and 2008, renowned for his pugnacity. I'm not taking sides on the merits of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and its aftermath, but anyone who thinks Barr is simply a lapdog for the Washington Establishment who will not be a match for Mueller or Rosenstein will probably want to reconsider. What he clearly is, is a very aggressive advocate for his clients. As AG he will be an advocate, most broadly, for the Constitution and laws of the United States, but in that capacity he has a well established record as an aggressive defender of the Executive Branch.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

What's So Special About That Relationship?

How it's done in Merrye Olde England ...

A little less than a week ago, Mike Sylwester drew my attention to a series of posts at the Moon of Alabama blog. These blog posts deal with the role that British intelligence agencies and their proxies played in our Russia Hoax. While they don't offer any breakthrough factual discoveries, per se, they do offer a valuable look inside the world of state sponsored intelligence operations that target public opinion as well as tantalizing links to US based people and organizations.

A good way to work our way into this topic is a piece that appeared today at Zerohedge: The Not So Special US-UK Relationship. The author begins by discussing the general notion of the Special Relationship between the US and the UK:

The Anglo-American ‘Special Relationship’ has been known to exist as a close alliance between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since the days of FDR and Churchill forged during the Second World War. It is called special because of the unique historical and cultural bonds of kinship that unite the American and British peoples through a perceived shared heritage, common political/social/economic values and language. Together over the course of 72 years it has been the White House with the support of 10 Downing Street as its principal strategic leading ally in Europe.

Of course, nowadays we also speak of the Five Eyes,

an anglophone intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. These countries are parties to the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence.

Indeed, we've seen the significant role that Australian intel operatives also played in our 2016 Presidential election. Nevertheless, the Anglo-American relationship remains special, especially because of the role the UK's GCHQ plays in monitoring worldwide communications:

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Romney And Pelosi

I try to avoid doing blogs unless I have something somewhat original to say. However, there were two bits of commentary today that I found so cogent, given the current state of our polity, that I thought perhaps some originality could be found in simply uniting or juxtaposing key passages from each. I have one minor caveat for each.

First, Victor Davis Hanson comments on Mitt Romney's public auto destruct--and much more:

After listing Trump’s successful policies ... Romney mysteriously concludes that “These are policies mainstream Republicans have promoted for years.”

I think about at least 40 percent of the electorate might beg to differ.

Certainly, the prior appointments of Supreme Court Justices Blackmun, Brennan, Powell, Souter, and Stevens, to name a few, would not suggest much Republican consistency in appointing conservative Supreme Court justices. China’s unfair trade policies were never reined in, but often enhanced by laissez-faire Republican administrations hand-in-glove with corporate globalism. I am not aware that the regulatory state significantly decreased over the last 40 years, despite Republican governance.

Romney is certainly right that presidents “should unite us and inspire us to follow “our better angels.” And Trump has been often a catalyst rather than a restraint upon national mudslinging. But we also forget that, for the first time in modern memory, during the 2016 election, one candidate hired a law firm and opposition research team to employ a foreign-national operative, who in turn bought foreign sources to discredit his employer’s opponent and with others also enlisted the existing hierarchies of the DOJ, CIA, FBI, NSC, and FISA courts to break past protocol, and often the law, in order to obstruct the candidacy, transition, and presidency of  Donald Trump.

[Comment: Here's my caveat, or quibble: Too many in our conservative commentariat are Anglophiles, uncritical fanboys of Churchill. What needs saying here is not simply that Hillary recruited the help of a foreign national who bought foreign sources (Russian) to influence a US Presidential election, but that our Intel agencies were suborned to collude with the Intel agencies of foreign powers (Britain, Australia, and apparently others) for the same purpose.]

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Are You Kidding Me?

It's hard to overstate the debt of gratitude that conservatives owe to sundance at Conservative Tree House for the quantity and quality of information he has brought to bear on the Russia Hoax. Just yesterday he had an excellent reprise, tying various threads together: Why Flynn? – A Confluence of Highly Charged Political Events … Therefore to read the very same day such a ... I want to choose the right word ... deeply unserious blog by the same author is beyond disappointing. Way beyond. And yet that's truly about the kindest thing I can say about Solutions?

The problem for which sundance claims to have a solution is the institutional corruption of our federal justice system, specifically the politicization of the DoJ and FBI:

The institutions of the DOJ and FBI are corrupted; not just a few people within it, but rather the entire apparatus has been weaponized, over time, by participating political members who have politicized every function within the institution.

Let's grant the premise for the sake of the argument. What is sundance's solution?

Any solution has to come from a position external to the organization or the cycle will simply continue.
Putting a former U.S. DOJ official in charge of the DOJ, regardless of former term or professional/honorable intent, only maintains the status quo. The career mechanisms inside the organization will expel any action adverse to their interests, and the rules are set to aide their retention.

He's speaking here of Bill Barr, Trump's nominee to replace Jeff Sessions as AG. And so there's no chance that you'll mistake who he has in mind, he has a picture:

Friday, December 28, 2018

A Message Of Hope

For Christians, Christmas is perennially a season of hope, so it seems an appropriate time of year to offer a message of hope to conservatives generally. In the comments to recent articles regarding the ongoing Russia Hoax a note of resignation and even dejection has been noticeable. And yet even as the assault on our constitutional order continues (and I use this phrase advisedly) there are, I believe, positive developments--even reasons for cautious good cheer.

The most obvious positive result is to be found in the results of the midterm elections. True, the GOP lost the House, yet on the positive side Paul Ryan--who played a key role in slowing down the House investigations into the Russia Hoax and even, as it turns out, the initial dissemination of the Clinton campaign's "dossier"--is gone. That alone is a positive development, as is the emergence of a more unified Republican caucus.

On the Senate side the news is even better. The GOP majority has been expanded--an historically unlikely achievement. Traitorous members have been discarded--McCain, Flake, Corker--and replaced by either more conservative new senators or new senators who owe their election to Trump's remarkable campaign effort and who will therefore be in his debt. This bodes well for confirmations, both of judges--including very possibly another seat on the Supreme Court--but also for perhaps the key cabinet position: the confirmation of a new Attorney General to replace the feckless Jeff Sessions.

Already, in that regard, we have good news. Matt Whitaker, the acting AG, has been cleared by an internal ethics review at DoJ to supervise Team Mueller. Of course, emboldened by their success with Sessions, the usual Democrat suspects brought forward the by now standard demands for recusal, citing Whitaker's past criticisms of Mueller. Whitaker, despite anonymous DoJ sources suggesting recusal out of "an abundance of caution," wisely and out of a strong sense of principle, refused to recuse. The notion that anyone who has paid attention to ongoing events in the public life of the nation and who has both an opinion and the gumption to express that opinion, should recuse himself from a position of authority is too bankrupt for serious consideration.

The stage is now set for Whitaker to play an active role in oversight of Team Mueller. If the Democrats have a problem with that, there is a ready solution. They can try their luck with Bill Barr by allowing his confirmation as AG to proceed expeditiously.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

UPDATED: Judge Sullivan's Challenge

Despite the fact that Judge Sullivan totally shot himself in the foot with his absurd speculation regarding the possibility of General Flynn being charged with treason, it does appear that Sullivan remains focused not only on the misconduct (read: possible criminal conduct) by Team Mueller and the FBI, but also on the legal insufficiency of the charge against General Flynn--False Statements to the US Government, 18 USC 1001.

In that regard, legal tweeter Techno Fog flagged this fascinating exchange--note that the "Kelner" who responds to Judge Sullivan is one of Flynn's attorneys, Michael Kelner:

Near adjournment, Judge Sullivan mentions that he will likely have "many, many, many more questions" - including: 1) how the gov't investigation was impeded 2) What was the material impact of the crimes /end

The important point Sullivan has in mind comes toward the end, when he says:

"These are questions that you would prepared to answer anyway, such as, you know, how the government's investigation was impeded? What was the material impact of the criminality? Things like that."

Obviously Flynn's lawyer, Kelner, likes what he's hearing, is very much in favor of "things like that," and he says so: