Monday, September 2, 2019

What Should Winning Over The Russia Hoax Look Like?

I've been stewing a bit over the last few days, since Bill Barr's nolle prosequi in the wake of the Comey memos OIG investigation. Yes, I know that this is hardly the end game for Comey, but it's still irksome. And I'm not the only one who feels that way. For example, John Hinderaker writes today:

We have gotten to the point where, when the Department of Justice’s Inspector General releases a harshly critical report on former FBI Director James Comey, finding repeated instances of Comey violating FBI regulations and his own employment agreement to advance a political agenda, but the Attorney General decides not to press criminal charges, Comey declares victory and demands apologies from his critics. “I am not a crook!” is the proudest claim Obama’s FBI Director can make.

Hinderaker goes on to quote Rep. Andy Biggs, who expects indictments from the FISA report OIG is nearing completion on. Hinderaker is left sputtering: Let's hope so!

And he's absolutely right: "The Obama DOJ/FBI/CIA scandal is Watergate x 10,000. Someone needs to wind up in a federal penitentiary."

To explain in more detail what has me stewing, let's look at what Kevin Brock, a former top FBI official, wrote a few days ago regarding Comey's actions--from an FBI administrative standpoint:

[H]ere in the real world, this is what the IG’s investigation has confirmed: James Comey, as FBI director, created and maintained a separate record system that he kept in a desk drawer. He then also took most of those official records home. If that wasn’t enough recklessness, he leaked some of those records to the press after he was fired. 
To Comey, all of this is justified because some hero has to rise up and stand in the breach. But the IG methodically lists the numerous policies Comey violated, policies carefully designed over time to prevent the abuse of authority by those who self-craft a “higher loyalty” in their minds, thereby exempting themselves from the rules. Comey was no hero; he was nothing more than an executive vigilante. 
Creating a separate record system in the FBI is a mortal sin, and with good reason. Every newly minted agent at Quantico learns this as part of FBI 101. Anytime an FBI agent, to include the director, collects information in an official capacity, that information must be documented, associated with a case file number and entered into the FBI’s case management system. Comey never did that. In fact, his now infamous memos weren’t entered into the official FBI system until after he was fired.
That's the rub. Here in the real world, none of that happened in some sort of a vacuum. I'm not going to argue that "the numerous policies Comey violated" add up to a slam dunk criminal case. My point is simply that in the real world those policy violations were part--an important part--of a much bigger effort that, by the time Comey got the boot he so richly deserved, had extended for over a year. That effort constituted, in Jed Babbin's words,

what was pretty clearly a conspiracy to deny Trump the presidency and, after he was elected, to remove him from office. 
That conspiracy clearly extended beyond the FBI to the CIA, which ran a large part of the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation. As I wrote in June, the CIA’s part of the conspiracy was run by then-CIA Director John Brennan and his protégé, Gina Haspel, who was at the time the CIA’s station chief in London.

What I'm saying is twofold. First, those Comey memos--their production, preservation, and use--have to be viewed in their proper context--which is a criminal conspiracy to fraudulently misuse government powers for political ends. Second, that is the sort of conspiracy that no democracy can tolerate. A conspiracy of that sort most be exposed and prosecuted in detail--in other words, not on the basis of what are, in comparison, nickel and dime false statements. I'm not making light of those individual or discrete criminal violations, but I'm insisting that they must, for the health of our republic, be prosecuted from a big picture standpoint. And that's why I'm stewing--it's the failure to place Comey's actions within that big picture. I fully understand that a prosecutor probably shouldn't do that before an indictment is returned, but these were acts that were committed in furtherance of that big picture conspiracy. I'm not arguing for an immediate indictment. If the big picture indictment wasn't ready, then IMO there should probably have been no declination. The approach Barr took, or so it seems to me at this point, is too narrow and too cautious.

Babbin's conclusion to a very worthwhile article sums that up:

The evidence shows — and should be used in court to prove — that at least the leaders of the conspiracy — Strzok, Priestap, Comey, Brennan, and probably Haspel — should all be brought to justice for their abuse of power. 
Make no mistake: their abuse of power is the worst in American history. Nothing any president has done even comes close. Durham and Attorney General Barr need to throw the book at them.

However, to answer the question that I pose in the subject line, I turn to an article by Thomas Farnan: Comey Escaped This Time But His Day Should Come. Farnan frames the issue up front, conceding (against my preferences) that Barr was right not to pursue the leak case:

The reason he was not prosecuted was that it would just cause problems to designate as “classified” the anti-Trump porn he dreamed up and locked in a safe at his house. United States v. Comey in this instance would only elevate his mad ranting to a national secret. 
The real crime is that Comey lent the credibility of the FBI to bolster a ridiculous smear fabricated by the Democratic National Committee to undermine the Trump campaign and then his presidency. If we cannot prosecute that crime, we are a banana republic.

Then Farnan gets down to brass tacks:

Attorney General Bill Barr has appointed John Durham to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe. When he looks for who planted the stupid idea that Trump colluded with Russia, he will find, in each instance, that it was DNC working with the Clinton campaign—and Comey was involved up to his neck. 

... Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American operative, began doing opposition research for the DNC about Donald Trump and Russia in late 2015. 
The Ukrainian embassy worked closely with Chalupa to undermine Trump’s campaign. As Politico noted, “The Ukrainian efforts had an impact in the race, helping to force Manafort’s resignation and advancing the narrative that Trump’s campaign was deeply connected to Ukraine’s foe to the east, Russia.” 
Chalupa was so successful in fanning the Russian nonsense that on October 24, 2016, reporter Michael Isikoff at Yahoo News portrayed her work as pivotal in a premature victory lap for the Clinton campaign. 
A single, uncredentialed agitator, though, was not enough for Hillary and her crew. The Clinton campaign and the DNC commissioned the Steele dossier, to give British spy level credibility to Chalupa’s Chicken Little act. 
The Steele dossier was uncorroborated, unverified, and false. That didn’t stop Comey and other political operatives at the FBI from turning it into evidence to support FISA warrants permitting them to spy on the Trump campaign. 
Obviously, politicians should never, ever, ever be allowed to use their bought and paid for political opposition research to get their opponent investigated using clandestine measures. 
This cannot end upon the FISA investigation, though, no matter how satisfying it will be to see the conspirators start to get prosecuted. There is one additional piece of the puzzle that exceeds FISA abuse in its sheer audacity. 
The whole mess began when the DNC sold the phony idea that Putin stole its emails. ... 
Comey ridiculously allowed the DNC to hire CrowdStrike to conduct the crucial autopsy in this murder investigation. Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder and chief technology officer of CrowdStrike, is a Russian expat and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank with a non-Trumpian agenda. 
The Atlantic Council is funded by Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk, a $10 million donor to the Clinton Foundation with additional millions committed. It was CrowdStrike—and not any unbiased law enforcement agency—that purported to connect Putin to the hack of Podesta’s emails. 
That is three distinct instances—Chalupa, Steele, and CrowdStrike—where DNC opposition research was used in federal law-enforcement investigations. It doesn’t even include the work the FBI and CIA were doing with foreign intelligence services to get Hillary Clinton elected. 
The inspector general has already concluded that the FBI was acting with political bias. Ya think?

Now, with all that said, I recognize that the Comey memos can still probably be used as part of a major conspiracy prosecution. I just wish that there'd be some nod in that direction. At this point, I simply want to be on record regarding what I regard as winning. Setting a baseline for success.


  1. Thank you for that last paragraph. I am expecting Barr is thanking Comey for his flagrant memorialization of his anti-Trump bias, and is saving this as evidence in the larger investigation.

  2. What about Glen Simpson? Why hasn't Fusion GPS been raided by armed SWAT teams? I fear it's because nobody is looking at the big picture conspiracy. At this point the Swamp is just trying to run out the clock until the next election and they will succeed. For me, it has always been more important to have the whole story come out than for some minor bureaucrat like McCabe to be hauled into court and probably still skate in the end. How can that be done? Some kind of immunity deal in exchange for complete transparency?

    1. I agree with your assessment. I think I've said this before, but it bears repeating. What was criminal on the part of government employees may not have been criminal for Simpson--or not as serious. His most serious offense so far may have been lying to the Senate. As you say, much as one would like to see a sleaze like him hammered, his cooperation might well be more important.

  3. Presumably, going forward, prosecutions of high gov't officials, e.g. FBI director/assistant director, CIA director, et al., will require the strongest, air-tight case, in order to proceed--if only because the political fallout and media circus then generated would be akin to making first contact in war, the scripted planning is discarded when the "enemy" has its say in battle.

    In this instance, the case brought should be so compelling that the outcome is not in doubt--if only because the media will portray it as entirely suspect, unprecedented--and several other excuses not yet dreamed up.

    Also, the case brought should hang together so that a simple-minded jury can understand it.

    1. I've said it before but I'll repeat it. A complex case can still be simple--if it has a straightforward, big picture narrative to hold it together.

  4. Why does the DOJ have to publicly announce that it is declining prosecution after release of the IG report. In a complex case with numerous inter-related facts, including the possibility of conspiracy charges, which is, in fact, still being investigated, why wouldn't the DOJ simply say, if it said anything at all, that the matter is under investigation? Its not like they owe Comey any peace of mind, do they? And isn't every potential criminal charge a bargaining chip to use with Comey to build the case against others, including certain higher ups? I presume Barr is interested in the criminal activities of Comey's higher ups...

    1. I agree. I suppose it has to do with professionalism.