Monday, December 30, 2019

Is Obama In Barr's Crosshairs?

In this season of joy, Impeachment Theater, FISA reports, and Barr and Durham speaking out, Eric Zuesse has an interesting article at Zerohedge on a topic that I've pondered since much earlier this year. Zuesse suggests that the Russiagate Investigation Now Endangers Obama.

Zuesse doesn't offer too much in the way of specifics--possible charges, for example--but he does focus on the legal jeopardy in which disgraced former FBI Director finds himself, and what that could mean for Obama. This is an important point, and I, for one, don't find it far fetched:

Former US President Barack Obama is now in severe legal jeopardy, because the Russiagate investigation has turned 180 degrees; and he, instead of the current President, Donald Trump, is in its cross-hairs. 
The biggest crime that a US President can commit is to try to defeat American democracy (the Constitutional functioning of the US Government) itself, either by working with foreign powers to take it over, or else by working internally within America to sabotage democracy for his or her own personal reasons. ... and Mr. Obama is now being actively investigated, as possibly having done this. ...

Zuesse's speculation comes in the context of the OIG FISA report and the subsequent FISC order, both highly critical of Comey's--and Obama's--FBI. In that regard he quotes from a remarkable response that AG Bill Barr gave to Comey's defense of himself for the FBI's FISA abuses. Barr frankly placed responsibility squarely on Comey and called Comey a liar:

On December 18th, Martha McCallum, of Fox News, interviewed US Attorney General Bill Barr, and asked him (at 7:00 in the video) how high up in the FBI the blame for this (possible treason) goes: 
MACCALLUM: Were you surprised that he [Obama’s FBI Director James Comey] seemed to give himself such a distance from the entire operation? 
“JAMES COMEY: As the director sitting on top of an organization of 38,000 people you can’t run an investigation that’s seven layers below you. You have to leave it to the career professionals to do.” 
MACCALLUM: Do you believe that? 
BARR: No, I think that the — one of the problems with what happened was precisely that they pulled the investigation up to the executive floors, and it was run and bird dogged by a very small group of very high level officials. And the idea that this was seven layers below him is simply not true.

That's extremely plain speech coming from an AG, and bodes ill for Comey. Zuesse follows this up by pointing out the impact of Comey's situation on Obama, emphasizing the collusion with foreign intelligence services that began at some point in 2015. Zuesse, misguidedly, tries to tie this to a "treason" theory, but I say it plays very nicely into the overall big picture conspiracy theory:

If Comey gets heat for this possibly lie-based FBI investigation of the US Presidential nominee from the opposite Party of the sitting US President (Comey’s own boss, Obama), then protecting himself could become Comey’s top motivation; and, in that condition, protecting his former boss might become only a secondary concern for him.
Moreover, as was first publicly reported by Nick Falco in a tweet on 5 June 2018 (which tweet was removed by Twitter but fortunately not before someone had copied it to a web archive), the FBI had been investigating the Trump campaign starting no later than 7 October 2015. ...

In that context Zuesse cites some deleted tweets. The first refers to the famous Strzok/Page "OCUNUS LURES" text from December, 2015:

1) BOMBSHELL- From DECEMBER 2015–The word LURES is redacted by FBI but not OIG

OCONUS= Outside Contiguous US

LURES= In this context LURES = SPIES - multiple

Is this an admission that the FBI wanted to run a baited Sting Op using foreign agents against Trump?

I think we can be sure that these "lures"--unlike the Trump Tower lure that I believe was run by Fusion GPS--wasn't targeting Trump personally but instead was targeting persons connected already in December, 2015, to the Trump campaign. Michael Flynn?

In the same archived ‏feed, we learn that Stefan Halper started getting paid for his bogus Russia/China studies--to the tune of nearly $250K--in September, 2015:

The point of this is that such huge expenditures on Halper would not have been undertaken on a whim. It appears likely that this involved early targeting of the Trump campaign through associates of the campaign, and that this targeting received high level approval.

Zuesse continues--see if you don't think this captures the dynamics of what's going on in Washington DC these days:

Comey’s virtually exclusive concern, at the present stage, would be to protect himself, so that he won’t be imprisoned. This means that he might testify against Obama. At this stage, he’s free of any personal obligation to Obama — Comey is now on his own, up against Trump, who clearly is his enemy. Some type of back-room plea-bargain is therefore virtually inevitable — and not only with Comey, but with other top Obama-appointees, ultimately. Obama is thus clearly in the cross-hairs, from now on. Congressional Democrats have opted to gun against Trump (by impeaching him); and, so, Trump now will be gunning against Obama — and against the entire Democratic Party (unless Sanders becomes its nominee, in which case, Sanders will already have defeated that Democratic Party, and its adherents will then have to choose between him versus Trump; and, so, too, will independent voters). 
But, regardless of what happens, Obama now is in the cross-hairs. That’s not just political cross-hairs (such as an impeachment process); it is, above all, legal cross-hairs (an actual criminal investigation). ... Obama played hardball against Trump, with “Russiagate,” and then with “Ukrainegate”; Trump will now play hardball against Obama, with whatever his Administration and the Republican Party manage to muster against Obama; and the stakes this time will be considerably bigger than just whether to replace Trump by Pence. 
Whatever the outcome will be, it will be historic, and unprecedented. ...

As I said, Zuesse ties this in to a "treason" theory that I regard as misguided, but it does work very well with a big picture conspiracy theory. Note two things with regard to Barr: 1) Barr is always blunt but careful in his remarks--he doesn't bluster--so Comey has every reason to be alarmed about his legal jeopardy; 2) Zuesse's focus on the origins of the Russia Hoax fit in with Barr's own repeatedly expressed interest in those origins. Barr is the AG, so any interest he has the origins of the Russia Hoax assuredly has a criminal prosecutive component at its heart.

That said, in posts earlier this year in which I suggested that Obama might be the ultimate target for Barr, I focused on a fairly early interview that Barr gave. In that interview, as well as in other remarks, Barr repeatedly adverted to the famous January 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting the day before Comey apparently tried to use the Steele "dossier" to determine whether Trump might be susceptible to a blackmail attempt to prevent his inauguration. Those remarks take on added interest because Barr has since flatly stated that he has instructed John Durham to devote as much time to post-inauguration aspects of the Russia Hoax as to the origins. That must include the Mueller Witchhunt, but it's no stretch to see all of the post-inauguration coup attempt as emerging from that Oval Office meeting.

With that in mind--and because commenters have once again begun wondering about prosecutive theories--I'm going to reprise some of those earlier posts of mine that attempt to determine where Barr and Durham may be headed. Most of these date back to May, 2019. Excerpts follow:

First, from May 19, 2019: Is There A Prosecutive Theory To Fit The Russia Hoax?

I was stewing over this when Mike Sylwester reminded me of 18 U.S.C. § 371—CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD THE UNITED STATES. And, better than just reminding me, Mike pointed me to the Department of Justices Criminal Resource Manual, which provides guidance on the application of criminal statutes by prosecutors. You can read the entire section on Conspiracy to Defraud the United States here, but I'll be quoting selected portions. As it happens, I've previously discussed 371 at some length as forming a possible theory that the Russia Hoaxers hoped to use against Trump. I'll append that discussion below, but suffice it to say that at that time I didn't find the theory far fetched as a theory--the problem was that Trump failed to oblige the Russia Hoaxers by engaging in a pattern of conduct that would match facts to theory.

So ...

Here's the text of 18 U.S. Code § 371, Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud United States:

If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
If, however, the offense, the commission of which is the object of the conspiracy, is a misdemeanor only, the punishment for such conspiracy shall not exceed the maximum punishment provided for such misdemeanor.

Seems fairly non-descript, right? How does that apply to a coup attempt, or an attempt to subvert an election? Well, that's where the Criminal Resource Manual, with its citations of relevant case law, comes in. Check it out:

Although this language is very broad, cases rely heavily on the definition of "defraud" provided by the Supreme Court in two early cases, Hass v. Henkel, 216 U.S. 462 (1910), and Hammerschmidt v. United States, 265 U.S. 182 (1924). In Hass the Court stated: 
     "The statute is broad enough in its terms to include any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing or defeating the lawful function of any department of government . . . (A)ny conspiracy which is calculated to obstruct or impair its efficiency and destroy the value of its operation and reports as fair, impartial and reasonably accurate, would be to defraud the United States by depriving it of its lawful right and duty of promulgating or diffusing the information so officially acquired in the way and at the time required by law or departmental regulation." 
Hass, 216 U.S. at 479-480. In Hammerschmidt, Chief Justice Taft, defined "defraud" as follows: 
     "To conspire to defraud the United States means primarily to cheat the Government out of property or money, but it also means to interfere with or obstruct one of its lawful governmental functions by deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest. It is not necessary that the Government shall be subjected to property or pecuniary loss by the fraud, but only that its legitimate official action and purpose shall be defeated by misrepresentation, chicane or the overreaching of those charged with carrying out the governmental intention."
Hammerschmidt, 265 U.S. at 188. 
The general purpose of this part of the statute is to protect governmental functions from frustration and distortion through deceptive practices. Section 371 reaches "any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing or defeating the lawful function of any department of Government." Tanner v. United States, 483 U.S. 107, 128 (1987); see Dennis v. United States, 384 U.S. 855 (1966). The "defraud part of section 371 criminalizes any willful impairment of a legitimate function of government, whether or not the improper acts or objective are criminal under another statute." United States v. Tuohey, 867 F.2d 534, 537 (9th Cir. 1989). 
The word "defraud" in Section 371 not only reaches financial or property loss through use of a scheme or artifice to defraud but also is designed and intended to protect the integrity of the United States and its agencies, programs and policies. [Case citations] Thus, proof that the United States has been defrauded under this statute does not require any showing of monetary or proprietary loss. [Case citations]


What acts might have been part of this particular conspiracy or coup attempt that we call the Russia Hoax? Well, the use of the Steele "dossier", knowing its highly dubious origins, will be highly suspect in any circumstance--such as using the "dossier" as the basis of an FBI Full Investigation, or obtaining FISA warrants, or ... authorizing a Special Counsel to lead a fraudulent inquisition of the POTUS! How about criminal leaks to the media? Yeah, that works, I think. Then there would be the setup and prosecution of people like Flynn and Papadopoulos--it was all in furtherance of a conspiracy to interfere with lawful government functions. Or so I would argue. And I'd argue that strenuously, even as I also pushed the individual criminal acts. I'd also probably want to argue that in addition to "impairing, obstructing or defeating the lawful function of any department of Government" we should also consider an intent to "pervert" the lawful function of any department of Government. "[B]y misrepresentation, chicane or the overreaching of those charged with carrying out the governmental intention."

Hey, look, I'm not a criminal law scholar and I'm open to other ideas, but this looks well worth examining as a prosecutive theory. And now, to show the uses to which the Russia Hoaxers themselves may have hoped to turn 371, here's what I wrote in More On Mueller's Theory Of The Case. Actually, what I'm appending is the second part of a longer post--the first part provides more context.

Next up! A day later, on May 20, 2019:

The Shape Of The Coup Plot: Obama And The Brits

Then, last week, Bill Barr gave his bombshell The Answers I'm Getting To My Questions Don't Hang Together interview. The bombshell in the interview was the revelation of what Barr personally finds most riveting:

Barr is personally troubled by what happened between the election and the inauguration. According to Hemmer, the one specific example that Barr kept returning to was the Trump Tower meeting on January 6, 2017, between disgraced former FBI Director James Comey and Trump, when Comey tried to blackmail, er, when Comey briefed the President Elect about the salacious claims of the Steele "dossier". Weirdly, all those salacious claims appeared in the press within days of the meeting.

So, Barr is focused on what appears to be an attempt by Comey to blackmail Trump into backing out of the inauguration--first by the briefing, then when that didn't work by leaks of the "dossier" to the media.

If you find it somehow implausible that an FBI Director--no matter how self important and narcissistic--would take this task upon himself unbidden, you're not alone. The key here, which Barr didn't mention, is that the January 6 meeting didn't happen in a vacuum. Michael Goodwin, in a brief section (Team Bam in Barr’s sites) of a longer summary of the week's events hits that nail squarely on its head:

Among fishy events of the Obama administration, one that smells especially rotten took place on January 6 of 2017 when intelligence officials briefed President-elect Donald Trump. 
The meeting is now in the crosshairs of Attorney General Bill Barr, who tells Fox News it was part of “some very strange developments” he wants to examine. 
Heart be still. The meeting, and events just before and after, could offer a road map of the plot against Trump. 
At Trump Tower, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and FBI boss James Comey told Trump about Russian meddling. Then Comey met alone with Trump to tell him of the prostitute allegations only, and didn’t mention the Steele dossier. 
Days later, CNN revealed the briefing, and Clapper, after denying it, admitted to Congress he told anchor Jake Tapper about it. BuzzFeed soon published the entire dossier, giving oxygen to the Russia, Russia, Russia hysteria. 
There’s more. Uniquely, the events directly implicate Obama.

 And then Goodwin goes into the details of those "events just before and after,[that] could offer a road map of the plot against Trump." We've all heard about the White House gathering on January 5, 2017, but they take on new significance in light of Barr's focus and the possibility of a true big picture prosecutive theory. Goodwin draws on Comey's book, which begins to look very much like an initial defense and threat against Obama himself:

Comey revealed there was a meeting in the White House on the previous day, Jan. 5, to plan the briefing. He said Obama approved of him telling Trump about the prostitutes. 
Obama’s presence was also acknowledged in a strange memo Susan Rice wrote to herself on Inauguration Day. In a “Dear Diary” tone, she insisted Obama did not push for “anything from a law-enforcement perspective,” demanding only that everything be done “by the book.” Hmmm. 
Rice also puts Joe Biden and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in the room.
More likely, the meeting aimed to entrap Trump and overturn the election. 
Whatever the aim, Barr is on the case. Prepare for bombshells.

Don Surber, tracking Goodwin (Comey's book implicates Obama), provides the passage from Comey's book:

"Obama turned his head to his left and looked directly at me. He raised and lowered both of his eyebrows with emphasis, and then looked away. . . . To my mind his Groucho Marx eyebrow raise was both subtle humor and an expression of concern. It was almost as if he were saying, 'Good luck with that.'"

Who suspects that Barr has bigger fish to fry now than the obsessively texting duo of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, that he's aiming for Obama? Goodwin clearly does, and so do I.


  1. You could use that Conspiracy to commit statue against Schiff just as easily as against Obama.

    Rob S

  2. ... the famous January 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting the day before Comey apparently tried to use the Steele "dossier" to determine whether Trump might be susceptible to a blackmail attempt to prevent his inauguration

    I think that by January 5, 2017, Obama, Comey and the others were resigned to their inability to prevent the inauguration.

    Comey had no hope that his talk with Trump about Moscow prostitutes would enable him to "blackmail" Trump out of the Presidency.

    Obama, Comey and the others were preparing for a long-term effort to remove the inevitable President Trump from office.

    I think that the information about the Moscow prostitutes was one part of the Dossier that Comey did NOT believe. That is precisely why Comey did tell Trump about the Moscow prostitutes but NOT about any other parts of the Dossier. Comey hoped that many of those other parts might turn out to be true and might eventually serve as grounds to remove Trump.

    By telling Trump about the Moscow prostitutes, Comey was pretending to tell Trump the worst. On the contrary, though, Comey was trying to conceal from Trump the Dossier information that Comey thought really was the worst.

    At that point, Comey perhaps really did believe the FISA's concept that Carter Page and Paul Manafort had been communication links between Trump and Putin during the election race. Obama, Comey and the others hoped that this concept eventually might be proved and might ruin Trump.

    1. The Horowitz report indicates that Carter Page told the FBI that he never had communicated with Paul Manafort. (I don't know the date when Page said so.)

      I wonder if Comey hoped that the FISA warrant would enable the FBI eventually to charge Page with lying to the FBI on that point. Maybe that is why the FBI kept renewing the FISA warrant against Page. Eventually the FBI might catch Page communicating with Manafort.

      If that happened, then the FBI might be able to put decisive pressure on both Page and Manafort and cause at least one of them to provide evidence proving Trump's collusion with Russian Intelligence.

      That might have been Comey's idea when he talked with Trump on January 5, 2017. Comey was happy to tell Trump about the Moscow prostitutes but wanted to keep secret the FBI's investigations of Page and Manafort.

      The Dossier was basically about Manafort, who was Glenn Simpson's bĂȘte noire. Comey did not want Trump to understand that the Dossier might enable the FBI to flip Manafort against Trump.


      I think further that by January 5, 2017, the FBI had figured out that it would not be able to fit Michael Flynn into the supposed Trump-Putin election-race collusion.

      By then Obama, Comey and the others already were planning to get rid of Flynn by means of Logan Act nonsense.

    2. I think that's just too complicated, Mike.

    3. Mike, my comment above relates to your first comment. Re your second comment I'd say this. In the strict legal context it might be a stretch to catch Page in contact with Manafort months after the campaign was over. OTOH, we know that the Deep State does play by the rules and may have hoped to jam Page up through something they learned on the FISA--in addition to continued coverage of much of the Trump admin.

    4. Aghh! Correction: does NOT play by the rules.

    5. Regardless of the Obama crew's tactical choices, their collaborative mindset was always "Show me the man and I'll find you the crime".

  3. A few loosely related observations and thoughts.

    First, isn’t it interesting that Felix Sater reached out to Michael Cohen about the possible Trump Tower Moscow project in the same month as Halper received a handsome sum for his “studies” on Russia/China?

    Second, while I agree that Obama could very well be in Barr’s sights, and that his conduct throughout this farce probably was criminal, I’d be surprised if he finds himself in serious legal jeopardy. Whatever role he played in the Russiagate/Spygate saga, Obama strikes me as a relatively shrewd politician—I believe he was less gung ho than characters like Brennan and McCabe, and as such could argue his innocence on the grounds that he was misled by his underlings.

    Third, one of the many reforms I hope comes about from this debacle is an expansion of the types of conduct that “treason” covers in our legal system. While I agree with you that Zuesse is mistaken as far as our legal definition of “treason” is concerned, I believe the conduct of the chief coup players is not fully captured by the heading: “conspiracy to defraud the United States.” If our legal tradition has room for distinctions between manslaughter, first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and so forth, then there is no reason this sort of framework couldn’t be applied to distinguish between coup attempts accomplished by physical force and coup attempts accomplished by lawfare.

    1. Luke, great point re Felix Sater. I don't think anyone who has followed this has any doubt at all that Sater was being directed by the FBI. That he was being used to target Trump through Cohen at such an early date is highly suggestive. I hope Barr/Durham think so, too.

      Two, I agree that Obama isn't basically a risk taker. However, he has been known to overplay his hand. We'll just have to see.

      Three. The founders had strong views on "treason," and that's why it's baked into the text of the Constitution. While I agree with your sentiments and also feel frustrated, I would want to be very careful. OTOH, there needs to be some way to restore control over the Deep State intel agencies, over the permanent bureaucracy. Maybe reform of the Civil Service would go a long way to accomplishing all these goals.

  4. Occam's Razor.

    Comey is a dirty cop. That distinction didn't magically begin when Trump won the nomination. He has been dirty for a very long time, has lots of skeletons in the closet, and made a lot of enemies stepping on subordinates during his rise to power. Those chickens are coming home to roost and Comey will soon have no choice but to flip or face serious prison time. That has been the plan for a very long time now.

    And flipping Comey is the key to bringing down Brennan, and Brennan is the key to getting at Obama. During a meeting in the Oval Office in February 2016, Brennan was green-lighted to activate the Russia hoax OP using CIA resources and in coordination with several foreign intelligence services (UK, Ausy, Italy, & Ukraine). And they left an extensive paper trail and incorporated lots of bit players. But to bring down an ex-Pres, you also need a smoking gun witness (see John Dean, Nixon take-down). Durham now needs to assure that Brennan stays healthy until the day of reckoning arrives.

    1. While I agree in general, there may be others close to Obama or who could start a path toward him who are also in trouble. We'll have to wait and see how these things play out. One thing is for sure, the Dems are in a panic over Barr/Durham. They wouldn't be if it were only about Comey.

    2. As I have said here a few times, I have vacillated whether the Great Satan (if you will) was Obama, or H Clinton, or W Clinton. I could go on at length making the case against each one. Or perhaps, in a kind of Perfect Storm of evil, it was all three.

      In any event, as much as I want to see Obama go down, I would like to see the same for the Clintons.

    3. It's a close call. I could settle for all the above.

    4. My vote for Great Satan goes to Valerie Jarret. While Obama was raised up as a loyal comrade he was pretty much a chamming doofus through high school. Valerie was a hardened cadre organizing and directing party cells among her jr. high teachers. I believe Barack is a willing front, that Valerie is clearly in charge.
      Question: has anyone ever seen Obama speak while Valerie drank a glass of water? Me neither. Is she ever, to this day, more that a literal few steps away from him? She still lives with Michelle and Barack and no one thinks that's just weird? Eleanor wasn't this inseparable from Franklin.
      Tom S.

    5. Yes. I've always thought that Barry is run by the women in his life.