Monday, January 6, 2020

Cleveland: OIG Report Fingers Team Mueller

I've been saying for quite some time that everything the Barr/Durham investigation is doing leads inexorably to Team Mueller--and maybe into the Obama White House. Today at The Federalist Margot Cleveland has an excellent article that details the ways in which Michael Horowitz's FISA report points a finger at Team Mueller:

Inspector General Report Shows Special Counsel Replicated FBI Abuses
The report established that the special counsel’s office was complicit in the FISA abuse, the probe was a witch hunt, and its report was a cover-up for systematic government malfeasance.

Here I'll hit what I regard as the highlights.

First, of course, is the matter of the fourth FISA application--a renewal application. That happened on Mueller's watch. FISA renewal applications don't simply piggyback on the previous applications. The same duty of accuracy and full disclosure applies equally to each renewal, as does the obligation to demonstrate that the previous FISA orders are producing new intelligence of value. We now know, of course, that FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith actually falsified documents that were part of that fourth application. Will Clinesmith take a big hit for Team Mueller? We'll find out.

Beyond that, Horowitz documents that when Team Mueller demonstrably identified new information that invalidated the Steele evidence that was relied upon, this information was concealed from the FISA court for many months. The same applies to concealing the fact that, far from being a Russian agent, Carter Page was a US intelligence asset.

Second, the OIG report discovered something that, if it didn't exactly shock me, definitely caused me to sit up and take notice, to even involuntarily raise my eyebrows:

... after June 2017, “an agent from the Special Counsel’s Office became Ohr’s final point of contact through November 2017.” Thus, Mueller’s team made a concerted decision to continue to use Ohr to obtain “intel” from Steele—a decision the IG condemned. 
In fact, the special counsel’s use of Ohr appears even more problematic than the FBI’s prior mishandling of their meetings with Ohr: At least prior to Mueller’s appearance, the FBI documented the details of their conversations with Ohr in FD-302 forms, but as the IG report noted, while Ohr continued to communicate with Steele through the end of November 2017 and passed on the details of those conversations to the FBI, “the FBI did not memorialize any meetings its agents had with Ohr after the Crossfire Hurricane investigation was transferred to the Special Counsel’s Office in May 2017.” 
Further, while the special counsel’s team continued to meet with Ohr during this time, no one from Mueller’s group informed DOJ leadership of Ohr’s involvement in the investigation nor his meetings with Steele until “after Congress requested information from the Department regarding Ohr’s activities in late November 2017.”

I had previously thought that, once the 302s of Joe Pientka's contacts with Ohr stopped, so did the contacts. Not so!

Remember how Crossfire Hurricane was predicated on the idea that there was a de facto "enterprise"--an informal but cohesive entity--operating within the Trump campaign to collude with Russia? Uh, looks like there was an illegal enterprise of sorts going on within the FBI and DoJ--and Team Mueller! All FBI investigation must be documented. FBI agents are not allowed to operate what we referred to as "hip pocket sources." This is a huge no-no. Pientka has to be in deep, deep, doo-doo. As with Clinesmith, I find it non-credible that Clinesmith and Pientka undertook these patently illegal actions totally on their own. Who knew what, when?

Finally, Cleveland expands on what has been previously reported regarding key prosecutors who wound up on Team Mueller, who were secretly involved in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation before Team Mueller came into existence. Since the details are a bit complicated, I'll try to summarize them.

The FBI, it appears, had initiated a money laundering investigation on Paul Manafort, which coordinated with a prosecutive group at DoJ known as MLARS (Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section). Recall that three DoJ lawyers who had no involvement with Crossfire Hurricane nevertheless met with Bruce Ohr, Chris Steele, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page (no doubt acting as Andy McCabe's representative) before the first FISA application. I believe that meeting was to brief Steele on what was still needed to get the FISA on Carter Page. Those three DoJ lawyers were Bruce Swartz, Zainab Ahmad, and Andrew Weissman (who became the de facto manager of Team Mueller). See Must Read: Bruce Swartz, Textbook Swamp Dweller, in which I covered much of this ground.

Horowitz reports that, unbeknown to MLARS those same DoJ attorneys--Ohr, Swartz, Weissmann, and Amhad--were being briefed on the Manafort investigation. Why? They had no need to know. Horowitz offers the suggestion that

“given their high-ranking positions in the Department, their ‘unusual level of interest’ in the Manafort investigation could create a perception that the Department was investigating Manafort for inappropriate reasons.”

Huh! "Inappropriate reasons." Maybe political reasons?

It gets worse.

Not only was MLARS unaware of their 'unusual level of interest,' but DAG Sally Yates was also kept in the dark. For the best of motives, according to these plotters:

Ohr, Swartz, Ahmad, and Weissmann also told the IG that they had not advised their supervisors of their meetings concerning Manafort, and senior department officials were also unaware of them. Swartz stated “that he specifically did not advise political appointees leading the Criminal Division of the meetings,” because he sought to keep “the MLARS investigation from being ‘politicized.”” While Weissmann claimed that “he thought not telling Department leadership was an ‘incorrect judgment call,’” he did not remember telling Swartz or Ahmad that, and instead kept their conversations concerning Manafort secret. 
The IG report noted that “after [Obama Deputy Attorney General Sally] Yates learned during her OIG interview of the meetings involving Ohr, Swartz, Ahmad, and Weissmann,” she stated “that a decision not to advise political appointees ‘trouble[d]’ her because the Department does not ‘operate that way.’” There is not “a career Department of Justice and a political appointees’ Department of Justice. It’s all one DOJ,” Yates told the IG.

Doesn't operate that way? Uh, I beg to differ! And presumably it operated that way while Rod Rosenstein was in charge, too.

The IG agreed with these concerns, stating “Department leaders cannot fulfill their management responsibilities, and be held accountable for the Department’s actions, if subordinates intentionally withhold information from them in such circumstances,” such as Weissmann had.

A separate enterprise within DoJ? Sure looks like that to me.

None of this passes the laugh test, although I suspect Barr and Durham may have had a good laugh when they read that. Who else thinks that Durham will be leaning on Strzok and Page about this, with the idea of building a case against these DoJ attorneys? Those are far bigger fish than Strzok and Page.


  1. Recall the leak in which it was said that Mueller had obtained copies of communications between Roger Stone and Wikileaks? Implying, of course, that there was a veritable tranche of comms between Wikileaks and the Trump campaign. Anybody with a modicum of knowledge of Wikileaks knew there had been no communications other than Wikileaks telling Stone to stop falsely claiming contact with them. Not a first for a B.S. Mueller operation, and eerily reminiscent of this blast from the not-too-distant Mueller FBI past:

    "...why did the FBI say that it had copies of 'numerous' communications between two other parties when in fact no such thing existed?"

    1. Thanks for that. Do you have a date for when that happened?

    2. Mueller said he had “evidence” of Stone communications with Wikileaks here:

  2. Wasn't it Weissman who orchestrated a meeting with reporters in Spring 2016 at which reporters shared with him the combination to Manafort's storage locker?

    What was curious about that is that, as best I recall, there was no longer any FBI/DOJ investigation into Manafort. It was only after the "Black Ledger" was leaked to reporters by Ukrainian operatives sometime in the Summer of 2016 that they reopened an investigation into his finances.

    So why was Weissman so eager to meet with reporters in the Spring of 2016, and happy to accept their info on the combination to Manafort's storage locker?

    IOW, what was the predicate for Weissman meeting with the reporters to talk about a guy who was not at that moment officially under investigation by FBI/DOJ?

    Indeed, it is beginning to smell like a criminal enterprise was buried high up inside DOJ ...

    1. I believe that meeting was in April 2017. That was still before Team Mueller and Weissmann was inserting himself into a case that he had no reason to be involved in. And, yes, it's very much like a criminal enterprise, in the sense of a group of conspirators with a common interest. However, if you're thinking RICO I'm not sure.

    2. You're right; I'm off by one year:

      Question: when's the last time you were aware, outside of this Russia Collusion Delusion Hoax, of reporters volunteering to share information they dug up on someone with the FBI/DOJ, in particular, in what was thought to be a FARA case?

      It almost seems as if the reporters were *cough* *cough* acting in loco FBI ... the meeting, to ask FBI/DOJ about Manafort, appears to have generated absolutely no leads at all for the reporters, but they just happened to use the occasion of the meeting to hand off the fruits of THEIR surveillance of Manafort's storage unit.

    3. I made the same mistake in the past, so I suspect that someone published something with the wrong year.

      Barr/Durham know the names of the reporters involved. I suspect those reporters will find themselves in front of a grand jury at some point.

  3. -->"Ohr, Swartz, Ahmad, and Weissmann also told the IG that they had not advised their supervisors of their meetings concerning Manafort, and senior department officials were also unaware of them."<--

    Presumably such conduct is a firing offense, so I don't believe it for a second. Anyone who's worked around these types of highly-sensitive situations knows that you protect the boss by keeping them informed (as it's their ass that's on the line should anything blowup in their face)--with the caveat, "we didn't have this conversation--you don't know anything about this." That's getting the bosses approval and supplying plausible deniability--and if it goes haywire, the boss owes you one...

    This is more of the IG's bassakewards critique:
    --> “Department leaders cannot fulfill their management responsibilities, and be held accountable for the Department’s actions, if subordinates intentionally withhold information from them in such circumstances”<--

    Apparently supervisors don't supervise--by knowing what and how their subordinates are spending their time. They sit around waiting to be updated by those subordinates. And if supervisors are sitting in the dark, so be it.

    That Sally Yates didn't know what her direct reports were up to--that's on her.

    1. I wouldn't presume that such contacts were firing offenses per se for career employees.

      As for Yates--and Rosenstein--that's called "ineffective supervision." Probably not a firing offense per se for career employees, but those two were political appointees

  4. "patently illegal" seems like hyperbole. What is the statute that was broken? And given the use of "patently" presumably that must have been explicitly and clearly broken.

    1. Yes, statutes were violated, and yes the violations were patent.

  5. "Presumably such conduct is a firing offense"

    Mmmm, not really.

    "Anyone who's worked around these types of highly-sensitive situations knows that you protect the boss by keeping them informed...with the caveat, 'we didn't have this conversation--you don't know anything about this.'"

    As one who was once anyone, I can confirm this to be true, but only in the most exigent circumstances such as really cheesy straight-to-dvd spy flicks. Or comedies. But then I repeat myself.

    1. That's a nice concession that rogue employees--operating outside the scope of their responsibilities and unbeknownst to management--are an acceptable feature of DOJ employment. Just another feature of the Deep State that protects America...

  6. Margot Cleveland has another fine Federalist article on Stefan Halper in today's page. Also, the FBI agent, Frank Watt has an American Thinker entry that you'll want to read.