As an example of the type of conservative commentary I'm referring to, Paul Mirengoff at Powerline Blog published two blogs, one last night and one this morning, regarding the Mueller "probe": Report: Mueller Pressing Hard on Trump Tower Meeting and Mueller’s theory: Trump defrauded voters. In fact, Mirengoff touches on some central issues that deserve more attention and which, when properly understood, reveal the scope and aim of the highly secretive Mueller operation.
A lot of clarity can be gained by looking at the whole Mueller operation in light of the Steele Dossier. The central allegation of the Dossier boils down, quite explicitly, to the simple proposition: Trump entered into a corrupt quid pro quo arrangement with "Russians": a bribery scheme. This is the aspect of the Mueller case theory I examined in the blog that's linked above, the bribery statute: 18 US Code 201(b)(2). The Dossier's version of this general proposition is that, in exchange for the release of DNC emails by the Russians through Wikileaks--"a thing of value," in that the release of emails could lead to Trump's election--Trump agreed to grant sanctions relief to Russia.
But "dirt on Hillary" works just as well as "a thing of value" to be exchanged for sanctions relief, for purposes of the bribery statute.
Thus, the Trump Tower meeting comes across as a straightforward attempt to involve the Trump campaign in a corrupt quid pro quo arrangement: bribery. The Russian lawyer, Veselnitskaya, promises "dirt," then shows up talking about the Magnitsky Act (i.e., sanctions). She clearly seems to be dangling her half of the quid pro quo, sanctions relief, in the apparent hope that the Trump team will enter into the "spirit of the deal." Notably, this Trump Tower attempt at eliciting an offer of a quid (sanctions relief) for the Hillary dirt quo came before the first Dossier reports. The fact that receiving such information from Russians is not unlawful (Mirengoff quotes conservative stalwarts John Yoo and David Marston to this effect) is, of course, beside the point of what I assume is Mueller's theory: if the receipt of the information is simply one half of the corrupt quid pro quo then the presence of a second half, sanctions relief, does make this arrangement a crime.
Of course, nothing so far proves that Trump or anyone acting on his behalf entered into any such agreement or even considered it, but in politics appearances--the narrative--can be all in all. If Mueller can, shall we say, induce someone to assert that they believe or have reason to believe that Trump knew of the meeting and the discussions, then Trump's later denial of such knowledge begins to look--to the suspicious mind--like the concealment of guilty knowledge. It suggests that he may have known what the Russians wanted and that he at least considered it.
That conspiratorial effect is heightened by the Dossier's initial reports, which make two key assertions. First, that the quid pro quo outlined above had actually been entered into. Second, that Paul Manafort (present at the Trump Tower meeting) was the point man for the Trump Campaign's Russian "outreach," and that Carter Page was acting as Manafort's "intermediary" to important figures in Russia who could make a deal of that sort happen. That's all in the Dossier.
These assertions become, at least circumstantially, directly relevant to the Trump Tower meeting when we read in Dossier reports (written after the Trump Tower meeting and describing events that occurred after that meeting) that Carter Page took his ill fated trip to Moscow (a readily verifiable fact, for a change), ostensibly to deliver a commencement address at a Russian institute. In fact--the Dossier informs us--while in Moscow Page conducted "secret" meetings with the likes of Igor Sechin--a close ally and "de facto deputy" of Vladimir Putin. So, with this added to the background, if someone can be found to say that Trump had knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting it becomes possible to frame a narrative that runs roughly like this.
The Russian lawyer, Veselnitskaya, by claiming to be able to provide "dirt on Hillary," finagled a meeting at Trump Tower with top officials in the Trump campaign: Paul Manafort, Don Trump, Jr., and Jared Kushner. At the meeting, Veselnitskaya raised the subject of sanctions, hoping to elicit an openness to doing some sort of deal in exchange for the "dirt," i.e., entering into a corrupt quid pro quo relationship. But, the trio of Trump officials were too wary to discuss such a deal in a New York City skyscraper--probably the easiest target in the world for electronic surveillance. Instead, they briefed the Boss, waited a discreet amount of time, and then sent a trusted emissary who was familiar with the lay of the land in Moscow and had a semi-plausible pretext--Carter Page--to get the ball rolling.
Of course virtually none of this is remotely verifiable; no crime can be proven. But, then, verifiability isn't really the point. The point is to have a narrative that, in the absence of actual factual evidence, at least hangs together. Gives the impression of smoke and, therefore, of a fire somewhere. So, when we hear that "Mueller is pressing hard on the Trump Tower meeting," it's easy to see why that should be so. A breakthrough on that front is probably the one thing that could have the most positive effect on Mueller's pursuit of the Trumpian white whale. That's obvious enough from the fact that virtually every witness who has even the remotest connection to Trump Tower has been grilled on this subject by Mueller with one object in view--to somehow connect Trump personally to the larger narrative. It's not really about a crime, though. It's about a narrative that will play out politically.
The Jerome Corsi case is, if anything, even more closely connected to this narrative. After all, with Corsi the connection to Wikileaks is explicit, and thus plays into the Dossier's narrative of the corrupt quid pro quo. If Corsi can be pressured to admit to advance knowledge of supposed Russian release of hacked emails to Wikileaks, then his communications with Roger Stone take on a new significance--given Stone's close relationship with Trump. Again, absent startling new facts, little to nothing can be proven. The DNC server was never examined by the FBI--part of a disturbing pattern of non-investigation by that agency--and respected experts dispute even the possibility of a Russian hack having occurred. Yet, there is the support provided by the CIA and FBI claims that it was a Russian operation, a widely accepted narrative in officialdom--few elected officials, if any, dare dispute it.
Now lets turn to the second theory, one which Team Mueller has actually used repeatedly: the claim of fraud against the United States. Just to be clear about what we're looking at, 18 U.S.C. § 371 makes it a crime for
two or more persons [to] conspire ... to defraud the United States, ... in any manner or for any purpose ...According to the theory that Team Mueller has employed, apparently non-criminal acts--money raising scams of Russian bots on the internet, for example--can suddenly become fraud against the United States if they are performed by agents of a foreign power who have not registered as such with the DoJ. There's more to it, but that'll suffice for our purposes. This time, let's work this topic in reverse, so to speak.
In what possible way could Trump have committed fraud against the United States? By the very fact of allowing himself to be inaugurated as President of the United States.
How, you ask, could that possibly be construed as a fraud--surely there could be no more honorable and innocent act? Because in doing so Trump deprived the United States of its expectation of the honest services of a President who would uphold the duties of the office.
That's right. Because when Trump was inaugurated he failed to disclose that he's a puppet of Putin. An agent of a foreign power, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Puppet of Putin, agent of a foreign power--when did that occur? It occurred when Trump entered into that corrupt quid quo pro to exchange sanctions relief for "dirt on Hillary," or the release of DNC emails, or some other thing of value to his presidential quest. That opened Trump up to blackmail or, more politely, it opened him up to pressure to act in the interests of Russia rather than the interests of the United States. In other words, as an agent. Of a foreign power, and a uniquely evil foreign power at that. And I hope that reminds you of the absurd claims that General Flynn was blackmailable, too. Because if that, in the theory that Sally Yates advanced, made Flynn unemployable by the White House, what would it say about Trump as president? How "extremely careless" of Trump to place himself in such a position. Or was that "grossly negligent"--a term that seems to be reserved for Republicans?
So, voila, there you have it: Inauguration as President of the United States becomes ... fraud against the United States!
But didn't we already agree that none of that has been proven, and probably isn't provable at all? Even James Comey admitted, once again this week, that the Dossier wasn't verified before the Page FISA and it wasn't verified afterwards. Isn't it all just narrative--even worse, opposition research paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign? Well, yes, but ...
Suppose we can find someone, pressure someone, who will say that Trump knew about that Trump Tower meeting? It may not be provable, not even chargeable, but it goes a long way toward forming a narrative with a veneer of plausibility. It's definitely smoke, given Trump's denials. And it would definitely be politically damaging: Trump, Putin's poodle; the GOP, the party of Russia.
To anyone who says, No, Jerrold Nadler would be ashamed to embody such a tissue thin narrative in articles of impeachment, I say: You haven't listened to what he--and many other Democrats--have been saying since the Midterm elections. And to anyone who says, No, the Senate Democrats would never push such an absurd concatenation of narrative, non-facts, unverified and unverifiable allegations, and sheer malice in an impeachment trial, I say: You weren't paying attention during the Kavanaugh nomination hearings.
UPDATE: As if on cue, Jerrold Nadler is talking about Trump "fraudulently obtaining the office [of President]." True, he's talking about making perfectly legal hush money payments to women, not failure to disclose that one is a poodle of Putin, but the idea of impeaching a President for "fraud against the United States" by becoming President is there. Clearly he's been studying Mueller's tactics closely. Unfulfilled campaign rhetoric? It'll all be fair game for the "fraud against the United States ploy."
Well said and very clear. There is one more step in the process that, in my opinion, should be added. If anyone thinks that enough Republican "Can't have a whiff of impropriety/National Chamber of Commerce" Senators can't be found to convict then they haven't been paying attention anything at all for last 24 months.ReplyDelete
Anon, I'm not gonna be betting against you on that.ReplyDelete
I'm not disagreeing on the backbones of the Republicans in the Senate to naturally protect President Trump but I do have confidence in enough members of the American people to not lie down as President Trump is railroaded. I voted for the man and don't take lightly any threat to nullify my vote by crackpot Democrats and spineless Republicans. Our nation itself and our commitment to the rule of law is at stake.ReplyDelete
Now a couple of questions for you. Some commentators whom I respect think that Rod Rosenstein is a villain. Others think he is one of the good guys. I want to know what you think. Same with Robert Mueller. Men I respect such as Joe DiGenova and Dan Bongino are sour on Mueller and Rosenstein as is Sundace from Conservative Tree House. Jeff Carlson, I infer, thinks that Rosenstein is on the right side. Any thoughts that you care to share?
Mueller is playing a weak hand, but the stakes are too high to fold because he is also at significant risk if the Uranium One scandal busts loose. And he wouldn't try this gambit if he didn't have some level of confidence that an impeachment/conviction might actually succeed. Ultimately, this is all part and parcel of an attempted soft coup being executed via political skullduggery. But none of this will carry any water if the Clinton's get indicted over illegalities with their Foundation and Uranium One. No matter what Mueller alleges, it will look like jaywalking compared to the hundreds of millions that the Clinton Foundation actually received as bribes over the past decade. Trump's trump card is and always has been declassification and transparency. He wants Mueller to go first because then Mueller would be the one that looks like a member of a criminal conspiracy.ReplyDelete
I agree, generally. I think I key could be getting Barr confirmed ASAP, assuming that he'll come in determined to take control of the DoJ. Mueller will under pressure, perhaps, to wrap up before a strong AG comes in. Maybe. It's speculative.ReplyDelete
What is the evidence that Russia had the DNC e-mails at the time of the Trump Tower meeting?ReplyDelete
So far, any such evidence has been redacted in the reports that have been provided to the public. We have only assertions from our Intelligence Community.
Julian Assange says he did not get the e-mails from Russia. It's fairly obvious that he got them from Seth Rich.
Furthermore, even if Russia did have the e-mails, what is the evidence that they wanted to release them for political purposes?
I think that Russian Intelligence had no interest in obtaining information about the DNC's office politics. However, Russian Intelligence would be very interested in information on the DNC's computers that involved searches of the NSA databases.
I think that Guccifer 2.0 really is a Romanian free-lance hacker who did hack into the DNC computers and thus discovered a lot of files that described and discussed NSA searches of the NSA database. I think further that Guccifer 2.0, for a price, informed Russian Intelligence that the DNC computers contained a lot of information about searches of the NSA database.
Based on that tip from Guccifer 2.0, Russian Intelligence did hack into the DNC computers and looked around for files that described and discussed searches of the NSA database.
The DNC was receiving information about such searches, which were being done by some of the FBI's contractors, who were searching for information about Republican politicians. Russian Intelligence was not interested in information about Republican politicians, but was interested in details about the NSA's database.
For Russian Intelligence, the information about Republican politicians was just incidental chaff. Furthermore, Russian Intelligence did not want to publicize any such chaff, because Russian Intelligence wanted to keep very secret the fact that it had hacked into the DNC computers.
The DNC e-mails that were released by Wikileaks were stolen by Seth Rich. Russian Intelligence had nothing at all to do with it.
In response to Unknown @ 9:31 above:ReplyDelete
My opinion is that the Mid-terms were crucial. Speed was All Ahead Slow until confirmed that The House will be Democrat. None of this works if even a possibility of a Impeachment no-bill. Now we see Ahead Standard rung up. The moment the House indicts expect to see Full Speed Ahead that day. If it isn't over and done by 4Jul2019 I will be very much surprised.
Expect that if Trump says, "declass and release", a slow roll that can only be described as glacial, possibly a direct refusal using the excuse that Trump is under question specifically because of questionable allegiance and so no Nat'l Security assets/methods can be risked until his legitimacy is resolved. Pence will be lame-duck from the beginning and is part of the Club. The GoP will be selling tickets to the hanging. Trump has no friends with power.
The cavalry, in the real West, never arrived even close to in time to save the homesteaders. No adorable little muffin is going to march down the isle at the last day of the trial and read, "In God We Trust", to the Senate and everyone sniffle, hug and acquit. Ain't gonna happen. We are seeing Empire level political murder being played out before our eyes. This is the oldest and bloodiest sport in human history. What days we live in.
Mike, that's an intriguing theory re the DNC server. There's no doubt in my mind that, if the Russians became aware/were made aware that the DNC was receiving the results of queries to the NSA database(s), they would want to explore that--for all the reasons you cite. The FBI's failure to push hard to get that server is one of the shadiest aspects of this whole sordid mess. I don't know whether you saw Matt Graetz's interview in which he stated flatly that "our leadership didn't want to get to the truth," (close to literal). The same goes for the FBI, apparently.ReplyDelete
Anon, I'd be more inclined to agree with you if Rosenstein were still running the show at DoJ. I'm cautiously inclined to believe that Barr will make a difference, for two reasons. 1) He spoke out in defense of Trump on several important issues related to the Russia Hoax and Hillary when he didn't have to and knowing that doing so would win him no new friends and might lose him a few; 2) he surely knows that he's unlikely to come out a hero if the Dems impeach and the Senate convicts--so why take the job unless he's determined to make a difference? Going along with the Establishment isn't making a difference and, at his age, isn't going to make him new friends or lead to higher things. The other thing is, Trump won't go down without an all out fight. He finally has good legal advice--Emmet Flood is one of the top defense lawyers around and he had experience working for the Clintons, including the impeachment. He understands the political aspect at work here. The final thing is, sheer self preservation for the GOP. Even rats will turn when cornered.ReplyDelete
I will add a few points to my above speculation (at 5:37 PM) that Russian Intelligence hacked into the DNC computers because of a tip-off from Romanian free-lance hacker Guccifer 2.0 that the DNC computers contained files that described and discussed FBI-contractor searches of the NSA database.ReplyDelete
After Guccifer 2.0 himself found such files, he could have provided a few samples to Russian Intelligence and then offered, for a price, to tell where and how to find more such files.
Russian Intelligence was interested in such information because it might show the structure of the NSA database. Also, because the DNC's descriptions and discussions were based on a corrupt arrangement involving the FBI's contractors, the information might help Russian Intelligence identify people who might be recruited to search the NSA database likewise for Russian Intelligence.
Seth Rich was murdered on July 10, 2016.
The main motive to murder him was not to punish him for stealing the DNC e-mails. Rather, the main motive was to prevent him from ever revealing that he had provided the DNC e-mails to Wikileaks.
By early July, key people had committed themselves to developing a narrative with these elements:
* Wikileaks obtained the DNC e-mails from Russian Intelligence.
* Russian Intelligence would release the e-mails to the public as part of a deal with Donald Trump.
* The heroic DOJ/FBI was conducting an investigation that would expose that deal.
This narrative would collapse if it turned out that Wikileaks obtained the DNC e-mails from Seth Rich. That's why Rich had to be silenced.
Guccifer 2.0 wanted to get his deserved credit for being the first hacker to find the valuable files on the DNC computers. After all, Guccifer 2.0 made his living by finding and selling such information. Russian Intelligence was not his only potential client who might pay big money for such information.
When Guccifer provided a few sample DNC files to the public, he salted the files' metadata with clues that Russian Intelligence had become involved, after himself, in the hacking of the DNC computers. By doing so, he communicated to potential future clients two key points:
1) He himself had been the first to find the valuable info on the DNC computers.
2) Russian Intelligence had paid him for that valuable info.
3) Based on his found info, Russian Intelligence had launched its own hacking attack to find more such info on the DNC computers.
These were selling points for Guccifer 2.0 if he in the future would offer to sell information to other potential clients.
Although Russian Intelligence intended to keep its hacking of the DNC computer very secret, Russian Intelligence has received some benefit from the accusations that its motive for the hacking was to meddle in US elections. This false motive allows Russian Intelligence to continue to conceal its real motive, which was to search the DNC computers for information about FBI contractors' searches of the NSA database.
Anon, apologies. Blogger has two ways to moderate comments. As a result I don't often visit "comment moderation" in the Blogger interface. I did this morning and found two comments stuck there--one of them yours from 12/9. So, it's published now, after a two day delay.ReplyDelete
You pose the the question in your comment: Do I regard Rosenstein and Mueller as good guys or bad guys, white hats or black hats?
As it happens I spent most of yesterday researching some fundamental aspects of the whole Russia Hoax that arose once again with Comey's testimony--but which I paid insufficient attention to, in the past. I hope to remedy that today with what I hope will be a major new blog, but which may not be set loose on the internet for a couple more days. The "fundamental aspect" I'll be dealing with will bear in the most direct way possible on your question and, not to be totally coy about it, I believe you will see your own views confirmed.
Well, since we're spilling the beans, several foreign intelligence agencies followed Guccifer's path into the DNC server for the same reason as the Russians. This includes at least one "friendly" nation that was very worried about this loophole being used to expose some of their important secrets. The shear bumbling and incompetence of our core security institutions during the Obama years cannot be overstated. None of this can, or will, be remedied until transparency forces the hand of Congress. These institutions are focused solely on CYA and coverup, not fixing the problem.ReplyDelete
Again, very intriguing, Mike. I don't consider that I have enough technical knowledge to comment usefully, although I have tried to follow developments in that area. What I've read from the professionals in that field, who understand the technical possibilities, certainly seems consistent with what you present from an investigative and counterintelligence perspective. All I can do is repeat what I said in response the other day: "The FBI's failure to push hard to get that server is one of the shadiest aspects of this whole sordid mess." It seems clear that, given that the narrative of a "Russian hack" is absolutely central to the whole Dossier Russia Hoax, further light on this issue would blow the whole narrative sky high. Which tells me that I don't think we'll be getting hard confirmation any time soon. The Deep State has too much at stake.ReplyDelete
Unknown, do you have any sort of link for that?ReplyDelete
Ah, those "friendly" foreign powers. What would you want to bet that, not only were they concerned re exposure of their own important secrets, but they might just have been interested in any inside knowledge to be gained re US politics for their own influence purposes.
I think a simpler conclusion is the one presented by Michael Thau; namely, that Guccifer 2.0 is a Crowdstrike creation, meant to tie the alleged hack to the Russians and the self-styled hacker to Wikileaks in order to discredit any future leaks of the DNC emails by Wikileaks. Thau's article, on the American Greatness website, is (if I remember correctly)"Julian Assange, Guccifer 2.0, and the Russian Hack That Wasn't." As for Seth Rich, it doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to suspect a connection between an insider theft of DNC emails on July 5, 2016 and the murder of Rich only five days later. Conveniently, the whereabouts and contents of his personal computer are unknown, amid an apparent non-investigation of his murder.ReplyDelete
Julian Assange, CrowdStrike, and the Russian Hack That Wasn’t
I'll have to read that. It does seem to be a very important piece of the whole story, but one that has been largely buried.
The article doesn't mention this, but it's notable that by July, 2016, Steele's "sources" are already telling him that the Russians did the DNC "hack" and had already entered into a quid pro quo with Trump: Wikileak to release the emails in exchange for sanctions relief. That's fast footwork. As George Smiley told Control re Merlin's early production: "Timeliness is always suspect."ReplyDelete
... by July, 2016, Steele's "sources" are already telling him that the Russians did the DNC "hack"ReplyDelete
According to The Washington Post:
* Hackers took 50,000 e-mails from John Podesta's account on March 21, 2016
* Hackers gained access to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's computer network during April 12-18, 2016.
So, there was plenty of time to arrange for Christopher Steele to develop his dossier blaming the hacks on Russian Intelligence.
What happened in mid-June 2016, was that the US public was informed about the hacks for the first time.
Ah, right, thanks, Mike. I spent some time earlier tracking down the first refs in the dossier to DNC emails, and it was July. The dossier's story, of course, comes out full blown, no initial rumors, no development of information--Steele had the whole story on the Trump/Russia quid pro quo complete at the first go. Great source. But that's the problem with this--the Deep State is either not investigating or not leaking, so we're left to speculate. One things that seems clear is that the "official" narrative isn't the whole truth.ReplyDelete
Already in March, soon after John Podesta's e-mail account was hacked in mid-April 2016, the DNC began to worry that DNC files eventually might be exposed in order to embarrass candidate Hillary Clinton. Therefore the DNC began to develop the response that 1) the hackers were Russians and 2) the hackers altered the files before exposing them.ReplyDelete
In that same month, April 2016, the DNC hired GPS Fusion, and in early June 2016, GPS Fusion hired Christopher Steele. GPS Fusion and Steele were not only supposed to gather dirt about Trump's involvement with Russia, they also were supposed to concoct evidence that Russia was meddling in the US election against Clinton. This evidence about Russian meddling would support the DNC's future accusations that the exposed files and been stolen and altered by the Russians for Trump's political benefit.
Soon after the DCCC computer network was hacked, CrowdStrike imposed an extraordinary monitoring regime on the network in order to catch future hacking activities. While this monitoring regime was imposed, Seth Rich downloaded a huge number of files from the network onto a mobile device. Therefore, the downloading was detected immediately, and the identity of down-loader Rich was determined very soon afterwards.
The unexpected appearance of Rich into this situation caused a big problem, because his actions might provide an alternate explanation if the stolen files eventually were exposed. If Rich ever declared that he himself had taken and provided the DNC files to be exposed, then file-altering Russians could not necessarily be blamed.
A lot of effort -- especially Steele's concoctions -- already had been expended in order to prepare the accusation that the exposed files had been altered by Russians.
I think that Russian Intelligence indeed did take some files from the DNC network, but they did not do so in order to meddle in the election. Rather Russian Intelligence was searching through the DNC network for information about how the FBI's contractors had searched the NSA databases.
Russian Intelligence had been prompted to do such a search because it had been informed by Guccifer 2.0 -- a Romanian free-lance hacker who makes his living by selling such tips -- that such information could be found on the DNC network.
Both theories hang together, make sense--or so it seems to me. However, it also seems that the basics of some sort of Russia Hoax were already in place before any intrusions became known. That seems to have been something the strategizers in the Clinton campaign had decided on--that if Trump became the nominee, as was looking increasingly likely, they would play a Russia card against him, possibly bringing in Trump Moscow. I presume this was because Trump had talked of changing the dynamics of our relationship with Russia. When the intrusion into Podesta and the DNC occurred, even though the release of emails was fraught with danger, it also provided a hook to hang the hat of the Russia Hoax on.ReplyDelete
Mike, obliquely related:ReplyDelete
The FISC judge, Collyer, is quoted in her report re abuse of the FISA-702(16)(17) process by FBI contractors who were given access to the NSA database. After citing the extraordinary 85% rate of non-compliant queries, the judge states:
"While the government reports that it is unable to provide a reliable estimate of the number of non-compliant queries since 2012, there is no apparent reason to believe the November 2015 - April 2016 period coincided with an unusually high error rate."
IOW, as I suggested a bit earlier, the judge assumes that the abuse of the NSA database for partisan political purposes goes back to the second Obama campaign. And this is a judge stating this in an official report, not a blogger speculating.
That gives your G2 a lot more time to figure out what's going on, to shop his knowledge, etc.
Mueller may have a theory of the case, but he does not appear to have any evidentiary basis to believe Trump or people associated with his campaign conspired with Russian agents to win the election.ReplyDelete
There was not, is not and has never been any evidence that would provide probable cause to believe Trump or anyone in his campaign broke the law.
That's the problem with all of this, including Mueller.
True, Matthew, but that's not how the law works in this country any more. Perhaps Barr will fix that.ReplyDelete