Thursday, January 31, 2019

Trump Tower Narrative Laid To Rest?

For the better part of the past two years Russia Hoax partisans have been hyperventilating over the famous Trump Tower meeting, between top members of the Trump campaign (Don Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort) and the Russian lady lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. Now comes news from an unlikely source--the Senate Intelligence Committee--that blows all those theories out of the water.

Recall, President Trump has maintained that he knew nothing about the meeting, and his haters have insisted that he must have. Proof, in their eyes, that Trump had been caught in a lie lay in the fact that Don Jr. had made three calls to blocked phone numbers in the days surrounding the meeting. Team Mueller has also consistently focused on the Trump Tower meeting in its interviews of Trump associates. Don Jr., however, has maintained that he couldn't remember who the calls were to, but that they weren't to his father. CNN has the details released today by the Senate Intel Committee: Exclusive: Trump Jr.'s mysterious calls weren't with his father:

Senate investigators have obtained new information showing Donald Trump Jr.'s mysterious phone calls ahead of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting were not with his father, three sources with knowledge of the matter told CNN. 
Records provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee show the calls were between Trump Jr. and two of his business associates, the sources said, and appear to contradict Democrats' long-held suspicions that the blocked number was from then-candidate Donald Trump. 
Trump Jr.'s phone records included calls with two blocked phone numbers the same day he exchanged calls with Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, the son of a Russian oligarch who spearheaded the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. The calls came three days before the Trump Tower meeting, and an additional call with a private number occurred several hours after the meeting.

UPDATE: sundance has the news that the people that Don Jr. called were "two family friends — NASCAR CEO Brian France and real estate developer Howard Lorber, according to the sources."

While this puts to rest claims of perjury--or at least of lying--against Trump and Don Jr., many questions remain concerning the Trump Tower from my point of view. Readers of this blog will be aware that I've long considered the Trump Tower meeting to be central to the entire Russia Hoax, as I wrote in Crossfire Hurricane: The Theory Of The Case:

UPDATED: Saul Alinsky, The Arrest Of Roger Stone, And The Uses Of Power

Reader Jim W. has drawn my attention to a NYT article about the "perp walk":

Parading the accused and the condemned before the citizenry is an age-old tactic used by those holding power. The most famous example goes back some 2,000 years, when a Jewish preacher from Nazareth was forced to trudge painfully to Calvary. William Wallace, the Scottish independence leader, experienced it being dragged through London before his execution in 1305. French monarchists, during the revolution, endured it as well in the tumbrels carrying them to the guillotine.
That sort of public shaming has not disappeared, even if conducted in 21st-century America with less brutality. The modern version is known as a perp walk. As in days of old, a criminal suspect is displayed in front of a fevered crowd — composed now not of the howling masses but of camera and microphone holders pushing and shouting in sweaty pursuit of the best possible lens angle.

The article notes that in 1999 a federal judge in NY ruled that the perp walk was unconstitutional unless it had some "legitimate law enforcement objective or justification":

Judge Schwartz said the walk was intended to humiliate ... and had ''no legitimate law enforcement objective or justification.'' ...
The perp walk, though, seems almost certain to survive Judge Schwartz. 

The author was right, of course. Intimidation and humiliation by the Leftist establishment will always be with us. In place of the "perp walk", behold: the SWAT raid in the hours of darkness!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Lindsey Graham Challenges FBI Director Wray

Gateway Pundit has reported that the new Senate Judiciary chairman, Lindsey Graham, is challenging the FBI's tactics in the arrest of Roger Stone. And well he should. Before I get to the substance of Graham's letter to Wray, it might be useful to take a quick look at Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, in relevant part:

Rule 41. Search and Seizure
(a) Scope and Definitions. 
(2) Definitions. The following definitions apply under this rule: 
(B) “Daytime” means the hours between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. according to local time.
(e) Issuing the Warrant. 
(1) In General. The magistrate judge or a judge of a state court of record must issue the warrant to an officer authorized to execute it. 
(2) Contents of the Warrant. 
(A) Warrant to Search for and Seize a Person or Property. Except for a tracking-device warrant, the warrant must identify the person or property to be searched, identify any person or property to be seized, and designate the magistrate judge to whom it must be returned. The warrant must command the officer to: 
(i) execute the warrant within a specified time no longer than 14 days;
(ii) execute the warrant during the daytime, unless the judge for good cause expressly authorizes execution at another time; and
(iii) return the warrant to the magistrate judge designated in the warrant.

UPDATED: Nellie Ohr Partial Transcript Leak

Another week, another partial leak of the transcript of testimony by a Russia Hoax insider before the House Intel Committee. This time it concerns Nellie Ohr, researcher for Glenn Simpson's Fusion GPS and wife of then top DoJ career official Bruce Ohr. Fusion GPS, of course, was the oppo research firm for the Clinton campaign, hired through Hillary's and the DNC's Perkins Coie partner, Marc Elias. The partial leak comes to us this time courtesy of the Daily Caller.

At first glance this leak is similar to that of James Baker's testimony: there doesn't appear to be any bombshells, per se, but it does provide confirmation of the role played by the subject.

The obvious takeaway from Nellie's testimony--to the extent that it was leaked--is that she researched travel of Trump's family as well as any links between Trump and Russian "oligarchs":

Monday, January 28, 2019

Marc Elias: A Reminder

A search of this blog reveals, remarkably, that there appear to be no references to Marc Elias, so this post will remedy that. And right up front I want to offer (FWIW) a hat tip to Mark Penn, the former "pollster and adviser" to Bill Clinton, whose (typically) excellent article on the Roger Stone indictment and arrest brought Elias specifically to my attention (Mueller’s selective prosecution of Stone, Venezuelan-style).

Who is Marc Elias, and why is he important for understanding the Russia Hoax? Wikipedia explains it lucidly:

Marc Erik Elias (born February 1, 1969)[1] is an American attorney. He is a partner at the law firm Perkins Coie LLP and head of its Political Law practice. He is the general counsel for Kamala Harris's 2020 presidential campaign. He worked in the same role for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and for John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. 
He served as lead counsel for Senator Al Franken in the 2008 Minnesota Senate election recount and contest, the longest recount and contest in American history.[6] Elias has testified before committees in both houses of Congress and before the Federal Election Commission on campaign finance.[7] Elias has worked on voting rights and redistricting lawsuits in Virginia, Ohio, Nevada, Minnesota, New York, Wisconsin, Texas, Florida and North Carolina.[8] 
In April 2015 Hillary Clinton engaged Elias as attorney of record for her 2016 presidential campaign.[5] According to The Washington Post, in April 2016, Elias hired Fusion GPS on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to complete the research that resulted in the Donald Trump–Russia dossier.[11] ...

Are you getting the picture? You've heard of Super Lawyers? Well, in the legal field of Democrat politics, or simply politics generally, Marc Elias is an 800 lb. gorilla.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

UPDATED: The Meaning Of The Roger Stone Indictment

There's really not all that much to say about the Roger Stone indictment that hasn't already been said--that wasn't said many months ago.

If you want the details of the seven counts in the indictment, you can read Byron York's summary. York feels compelled to indulge in a bit of virtue signalling at Stone's expense, but his summary is accurate.

As for the virtue signalling, while the factual circumstances in Stone's case can be distinguished from the Flynn case, some of the same issues are present and were addressed in Setting False Statement Traps Is Not Official FBI Business. The main point regarding factually untrue statements made under oath to the Government really comes down to this. People make untrue statements all the time. All investigators and prosecutors know this. Sometimes these untrue statements are made in good faith, i.e., the person actually believes or has persuaded themselves that the statements are true. And then there are untrue statements that are untrue to varying degrees and are made for various, sometimes complicated and all too human, reasons: shame, defensiveness, malice--whatever. The traditional approach to these situations was basically to let false--or inaccurate--statements slide, unless: unless the statements significantly hindered the Government from getting at the actual facts, and the matter involved was serious. This traditional approach was motivated by simple human decency and understanding as well as by a concern that justice should be done--the justice system should not be turned into a game of "gotcha."

So, for example, the Flynn case would have been a perfect example of investigative and prosecutorial overreach and abuse under the traditional approach. Flynn's inaccurate statements (assuming they were inaccurate) did not hinder the FBI in arriving at the truth because the FBI already knew the truth; further, the subject of the interview was arguably not even within the legitimate bounds of an FBI inquiry, so it could hardly be regarded as serious.

That traditional approach changed with a lowlight from the late Justice Scalia's generally distinguished career. Here I'll quote Justice Ginsburg's (!) concurring opinion, which I quoted in the link, above:

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Trisha Anderson: Andy McCabe and Sally Yates Read The FISA Application "Line By Line"

Gregg Jarrett at Fox News has a new article up, just over an hour ago: Testimony in Russia probe shows FBI and Justice Department misconduct in effort to hurt Trump. This appears to be another in a series of leaks of testimony given by FBI and DoJ officials before the House Intelligence Committee, going back to when Republicans were still in control. Jarrett leads with this:

Newly revealed testimony by a former top FBI counterintelligence lawyer shows that former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe examined “line-by-line” the faulty warrant applications to spy on Trump presidential campaign adviser Carter Page.

The former to FBI lawyer in question is Trisha Beth Anderson, an Eric Holder protege. She was working at Holder's firm, Covington & Burling, and was recruited for DoJ. The Covington web page provides this summary of Anderson's stint with the Federal government before returning to Covington:

Ms. Anderson rejoined the firm after over a decade of service in the federal government. She held senior positions at the Department of Justice and the Department of the Treasury. Most recently she served as Principal Deputy General Counsel at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where she handled complex and sensitive matters relating to national security and cyber intrusions. 
Previous Experience 
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation, Principal Deputy General Counsel
  • U.S. Treasury Department, Assistant General Counsel for Enforcement & Intelligence
  • U.S. Department of Justice, Associate Deputy Attorney General; Attorney-Adviser at the Office of Legal Counsel  

Obviously these were all sensitive positions. Principal Deputy General Counsel at the FBI means she was the principal deputy to James Baker, currently leaking to the NYT and under criminal investigation for other leaks as well. Since she handled "complex and sensitive matters relating to national security and cyber intrusions" she would very likely have been knowledgeable about such "cyber intrusions" as the potential intrusions into Hillary Clinton's illegal home brewed email server as well as the DNC "hack."

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.]