So, Assange finally wore out his welcome in the Ecuadore embassy in London. This was probably inevitable, but the timing is interesting. Right after Mueller releases his report to Barr, Assange gets kicked out and immediately arrested? Timing does not seem coincidental, especially since the key Russian Collusion allegations are that Assange published the DNC emails which were allegedly obtained by Russian hackers. The alternative explanation -- as Assange tells it -- is that they were leaked to him by an insider within the DNC. Speculation is that the leaker was Seth Rich, who was subsequently murdered in what may -- or may not -- be a robbery gone wrong.
So we will have to wait and see what Assange is charged with. If he's charged with the DNC "hack" -- or more likely conspiracy with the DNC "hack" since he probably did not conduct it himself -- it means someone is trying to keep him locked up and under threat so he can't contradict the official story on those events... or else he actually did it.
If he's NOT charged with the DNC hack (and/or conspiracy), Russian Collusion is toast. No Russian hackers, no possible collusion, and Hillary's opposition research fairy tale goes up in smoke.
If he is charged with other hacking, especially Russian-linked espionage type hacking (eg his involvement with Bradley Manning) but not the DNC hacking, it may be a smokescreen to imply he was involved in the DNC hacking. There's another DNC-related hacked -- someone with an account there had their account phished via email -- and that would confuse the situation still further.
But the key thing to keep an eye on is whether Assange is charged with hacking the DNC in a criminal conspiracy to influence the 2016 election. If not, then not only is Russian Collusion dead, but so is Russian Hacking. It's all a hoax at that point.
So unless more indictments appear later on, the idea that the Russians hacked the DNC emails and gave them to Assange can no longer be taken seriously. It, too, was part of the Russia Hoax. A DNC insider leaked them to Assange, probably someone annoyed that Bernie was being cheated out of the nomination.
Dossier based on posts from "random individuals" on CNN website
CNN is so tightly connected to the Clintons that it has been referred to as "Clinton News Network". Many commentators there are Clinton officials or campaign staff. If Steele was drawing "evidence" from random individuals posting to CNN's websites, what are the odds those "random individuals" would be connected to the Clinton campaign and/or researchers like Nellie Ohr or other people with access to intel databases who needed to covertly and deniably communicate their findings?
Of course, such "sources" don't exactly meet criteria for admissibility in court, either.
Fake News Russian Collusion out, real Ukrainian collusion in
To be fair, the Ukrainian collusion part is still alleged. But there's tape, a court ruling, an active criminal investigation, and contacts with the Obama administration via the US embassy in the Ukraine.
In his investigation, Mueller employed 60 people for 2 years, 3000 subpoenas (!!!!), 500 search warrants, 230 requests for communication records, 50 orders authorizing "pen registers" (wiretaps that only report who you talked to but not the content), 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed 500 people. It's not clear how many of those were focused on the process crimes and unrelated criminal matters Mueller was trying to use as leverage, but it's clear he left no stone unturned and found nothing regarding the central matter of his investigation.
The President and his 2016 campaign are completely vindicated.
The individuals whose prior criminal acts made them vulnerable are not, except to the extent their association with the President brought them under unprecedented and excessive scrutiny.
Mueller chose to examine the facts concerning allegations of obstruction of justice while leaving it to the Attorney General to decide whether those facts amounted to obstruction. The Attorney General determined they did not.
The letter suggests more information will be released when possible (ie, when the material that cannot be released, such as grand jury information, is identified and removed).
It's likely Congress will attempt to seize on the obstruction issue as grounds for impeachment, but this is very plainly a step too far that can only be taken due to political desperation at this point.
And now the tables turn. Prosecute those who abused the national security and law enforcement agencies of our government while seeking to dictate the results of an election. Drain the swamp. Lock Hillary up, and her little cronies too.
UPDATE: Wait a sec. Mueller asked for help from 13 foreign governments? That seems like a dangerous intrusion on the President's power to conduct foreign policy, especially in an investigation effectively (if not formally) targeting the President.
Basically, in her testimony, Lisa Page admitted that both investigations were heavily political, that the Clinton investigation was swept under the rug (she says by DOJ's rules), and that the Trump-Russia investigation was started with no evidence and never managed to actually find any.
Again, the fact that a "friendly" DOJ has to be sued to get answers means they are simply trying to cover up as much as possible. And it calls into question how "friendly" DOJ really is. Hopefully, Barr will change things.
Bill Quick asks if this is real. Pretty sure that's a negative. Telltales are all in the keywords: "Trump's orbit", rather than Trump, and "possible" collusion rather than simply collusion.
If they had anything on Trump directly, they would say that. They did not.
If they had evidence of actual collusion, they would say that. They did not.
In both cases, they used language to imply as much as possible while weaseling out of making the actual accusation. So what do they have?
Cohen, a convicted liar, told Congress that he overheard a phone call between Roger Stone and Trump telling Trump that Wikileaks was about to release something on Clinton. Problems: Wikileaks denies ever talking to Stone, Stone denies ever talking to Wikileaks, and Wikileaks had already publicly teased their release before the phone call allegedly happened. Maybe Cohen is telling the truth and Stone was implying he was in contact with Wikileaks when he was not. Maybe Stone is telling the truth and Cohen is making things up that are impossible to disprove based on publicly admitted allegations. Trump's response: "Wouldn't that be great?" is not the response of a man with insider knowledge engaged in illicit collusion. If he was engaged in such, he would know it was coming.
Cohen, a convicted liar, also told Congress he heard Trump Jr tell Trump Sr that "the meeting is all set up". Cohen assumes and alleges this referred to the Trump Tower meeting. There is, I think, no reason to believe this; how many meetings must both Trumps participate in on a daily basis? Even if the assumption is correct, everyone at the meeting says it went nowhere. The evidence suggests the meeting was set up by Fusion GPS deliberately to give the impression of Russian collusion.
If they had anything else, it would have leaked already.
Should Mueller and Horowitz release their reports simultaneously?
Roger Simon argues yes, in the interests of transparency and fairness. There's one problem with that; Horowitz has apparently not been interviewing witnesses, meaning his report can't possibly be ready at the same time. I believe, based on various reports, that Mueller is probably using his "Don't interfere with my investigation" card to stop IG Horowitz and his colleague prosecutor Huber from actually investigating anything until Mueller is done.
That makes a simultaneous report a non-starter; does anyone believe the Mueller report won't leak long before Horowitz and Huber are done when they haven't even started yet? Hell, I'd bet on the Mueller report leaking within the day.
The email contained "requests" and Baker conveyed a meeting within 24 hours to discuss it. The people Baker notified were: Comey, associate Deputy Director Bowdich, assistant director for national security Steinbach, assistant director for counterintelligence Priestap, Comey's chief of staff Rybicki, analyst Moffa, assistant director (acting) Herring, assistant director for public affairs Kortan, deputy general counsel Trisha Anderson, and of course the two lovebirds Strzok and Page. If I remember correctly, this was the week before the election.
There was in fact a conference call scheduled among those people as a result, and of course, Comey issued another letter two days before the election "clearing" Clinton. There are multiple lies documented, including Strzok lying that no new classified emails were found on the laptop. A lie by omission, as well, as they had only examined approximately 3,000 of the 340,000 emails on the laptop.
The emails obtained also document an offer of a quid pro quo: more funding for FBI positions in return for downgrading the reason for redacting released material to "from classified to something else."
We don't know what happened in that conference call, but we know the results: Comey's second letter falsely claiming to exonerate Clinton two days before the election, the examination of the laptop was halted pretty much immediately (long before the contents could be properly examined), and, of course, the return of Strzok, Page, and the rest of the conspirators to looking desperately for dirt on Trump as an insurance policy.
A reminder: Priestap was head of FBI's counterintelligence during the time this was going on, and he's generally considered to be a cooperating witness with the investigation into SpyGate. But for some reason, he can't talk about some of the trips he took to London during the same timeframe; supposedly they are connected to the Mueller investigation but he claims he didn't meet the known London players. So who did he meet and why was he there? And why can't he tell Congress?
FISC called on Mueller to explain surveillance abuses
In other words... Mueller has a pattern of covering up for FISA abuses, specifically involving omission of relevant information, and he's successfully covered up those abuses for the past 16 years. That likely puts the abuses in 2003 or 2002. And it highlights his involvement now in covering up similar FBI abuses that violated the Woods procedure he promised then would prevent future abuses like those he covered up.
Why, then, aren't the current FISC judges willing to enforce the laws in the way that the earlier ones were? Why aren't FBI and DOJ supervisors?
Nellie Ohr admits investigating travels of Trump family
This is confirmation of a theory long pushed by the Conservative Treehouse: Nellie Ohr, working for Fusion GPS, almost certainly used her access to the NSA databases to investigate Trump and his children. (Where else could she research their travel? She was a contractor and had access.)
This is also significantly -- hugely significant -- because it confirms that the investigation targeted the Trump family all along. She frames her research as being superficial and into the children's travel and Trump's real estate dealings, which are topics suitable for opposition research, but not for a federal contractor using intelligence databases.
It also confirms the timing of the investigation (as contractor access to the NSA databases was cut off before the election, on April 18th, probably by Mike Rogers, which forced the FBI to seek a warrant from the FISC).
It is shocking to me that this admission -- which took place in October, and has only recently been leaked to the press -- did not result in Ohr immediately being arrested for her crimes.
The only thing missing here, as I see it, is that Nellie is not quoted as using her access to NSA and other law enforcement/intelligence databases to do the research. In theory, as these are public figures, she could have used Google. But anyone could do that. You wouldn't need someone like Nellie, with her access, to do Google searches on the public net for press releases and news articles about semi-famous people traveling around.
In all those alleged crimes, not a single one would exist without the Mueller probe. We already know Mueller is willing to basically make up false statements charges from whole cloth (based on interviews where the FBI interviewer didn't think there was any intention to deceive; see the Mike Flynn case). In this case we've seen the basic allegations before. Some of Stone's emails vaguely reference what WikiLeaks will release next, basically guessing what it might be, and Mueller is claiming that was actual foreknowledge that Stone is lying about when he says it was just a guess.
So the factual question is whether Stone was actually communicating with "Guccifer 2.0" or Wikileaks, or whether he was just bragging to puff himself up and give the impression he had inside information. Notably, Mueller has not charged him with hacking or conspiracy to hack, or anything related to hacking, and Wikileaks has denied communicating with Stone. Just to lying and "obstructing" (which probably translates to not cooperating and encouraging other people not to cooperate).
The media (CNN) was informed so they could be present at the arrest, which was a full tactical armed raid. That shows a certain amount of inappropriate public relations thinking on the part of whoever leaked the information. Did this guy really need a pre-dawn raid by a team of tactical FBI agents in armor, aired on CNN? No. The whole thing was staged for media impact.
Given the steady drip drip drip of incredibly damaging quotes from congressional testimony on this topic, and the failed attempt to refocus attention on Trump via the false Buzzfeed story alleging Cohen was ordered to lie, indicting Stone and arresting him in this very visible way feels like an attempt to redirect the narrative.
On the one hand, this shows them paying careful attention to what they signed -- a much better professional look than Rod Rosenstein's (paraphrased) "I don't really need to read the things I sign". On the other hand, it puts McCabe and Yates in the uncomfortable position of having still signed at least one FISA application based on Hillary's dossier, despite their careful review, and not including information about Steele's personal and financial partisan motives, despite being warned about them by Ohr.
The relationship is pretty simple. Trump ran as a Republican. De facto, the NRA supports Republicans nationally. (This is because the Democrats demonstrated they could not be trusted, as a whole, but individuals are evaluated as individuals when running for office). The NRA spent a lot of money on this election in particular because there was an open Supreme Court seat at stake, and it was previously held by a very pro-gun Justice. Of course the stakes were high.
But the implication here is insane.
Emphasis mine. This is just an attempt to smear Trump by association with the NRA by association with a single Russian possible agent.
So, an entirely trivial amount of money, no accusations of wrongdoing on the part of the NRA, no crime for Mueller to investigate, and yet he has a budget of millions to spend -- and will force his targets to spend even more defending themselves from baseless political charges.
Given those answers -- especially Barr's long-standing personal and professional relationship with Mueller -- I cannot see how Barr can be expected to provide the restraint Mueller's special counsel role has so far been lacking.
I wonder if Trump knew that when he nominated Barr? Somehow, I doubt it.
Someone should tell him before Barr is confirmed, in case he wants to nominate someone without such conflicted personal relationship.
Huber is being blocked by Mueller's investigation. He can't see or do anything until Mueller is done. And Mueller will make sure that he doesn't end his investigation before he has make sure all evidence is thoroughly cleaned up.
Graham files legislation seeking to protect Mueller
Linsey Graham was a major McCain ally and well-known RINO until very recently -- specifically, he seemed to find his spine during the Kavanaugh hearings. Since then he seems to have lost it again. On Mueller specifically, remember that Graham is closely linked to McCain, and McCain was involved with retrieving a copy of the dossier, giving it to the FBI, and providing it to the media.
In other words, it is likely Graham's public statements are an attempt to get on Trump's good side in public while in official actions and legislation threatening Trump with Mueller to protect the Deep State and possibly his own involvement in SpyGate.
It seems to me the intelligence community has been picking winners and losers in the US elections for some time now, and Trump's surprise win has thrown a wrench in their election machine. We get this under control now -- in the next two years, before Trump's re-election campaign in 2020 -- or we lose the chance.
UPDATE: It turns out the 302s from seven months later were an interview of Strzok describing the interview of Flynn. The original 302s were filed under seal. (One marked draft, one not). The timeframe on the original 302s confirm that they were referred to by Strzok and Page in already released text messages discussing approval by McCabe. They are also redacted in significant portions, which makes it hard to evaluate Flynn's honesty closely without the matching transcript of the call.
Let's not forget that leaking the transcript of the call itself was a felony. No one seems to be looking into who leaked that.
The idea is that Cohen's payments to two bimbos were technically campaign contributions intended to influence the election rather than to shut them up to prevent generic reputational damage to Trump's marriage. Looked at objectively, that's somewhat flimsy, and charging a campaign finance violation like that as a felony is almost unprecedented. As potential felony charges, these could be treated as the basis of impeachment by the now-Democrat House. And of course there is huge demand for impeachment, stoked and stroked for two years now by the media and the Deep State on both sides of the political aisle.
But the Senate is extremely unlikely to convict and remove. Democrats would need 20 GOP votes in the Senate, and it seems unlikely they will get that. Any GOP member voting to remove a Republican president can expect enough of his base to stay home in the next election to doom him, even if they have to wait a few years. There would be dramatic losses among those up in the next election, even if they voted against, simply as a matter of getting to who you can get to. Within the Republican party it would mark the transition from a cold war of paperwork and politics for control of the party to an open party split.
I don't think Comey necessarily lied to Congress here. I think he pushed back on Trump's request to investigate the origin of the dossier because he knew where it came from (and yes, he did probably lie to Congress about that). But his FBI was already trying to verify the dossier ... meaning, find out whether or not it was true.
I think the FBI's efforts to verify the dossier consisted of trying to get warrants on the four people named in the FISA warrant application. That is, instead of presenting the FISA court with verified information containing probable cause of a crime, they presented the FISA court with a line of bullshit and hoped their wiretap would be retroactively self-verifying.
Will Trump be charged with campaign finance violations?
Andy McCarthy thinks so. I don't, but mostly because DOJ policy forbids indicting a sitting president. I think Mueller will write a report saying he would have indicted Trump if Trump was not the president. He will then pass it off to Congress and invite them to consider impeachment.
Will they? The Democrats just took the House. Of course they will at least consider it. They have the votes to do it if everyone votes straight party. They can even afford to lose quite a few weak seats if they want to try to protect them. On the other hand, trying to get Trump removed from the Senate is a political non-starter, needing 67 votes when they have only 47 or so. So, to the extent that they try to impeach, they will use it as a political weapon to damage his reelection chances.
Should they? Using very weak campaign finance charges combined with even weaker lying about sex and/or lying about Moscow hotel deals, all taking place before Trump became president, none of which at this point appears to involve Trump directly but merely his campaign, to try to remove a president is facially absurd. So far there's basically no proven personal nexus to Trump's actions; campaign finance violations are usually cured by fines not felonies; Trump has the "I trusted my lawyer to do it legally" defense; Cohen's cooperation and credibility have been destroyed by his admissions of lying and the violation of attorney-client privilege. You couldn't get a conviction in an ordinary court after the necessary cross-examination and tossing out of the tainted evidence.
Historically, lots of presidents have had various affairs, including payoffs, without facing impeachment. Clinton did face impeachment for lying about it, but not removed... and his impeachment was considered one of the biggest political mistakes in modern history. (I supported it, but mostly because of all the other crap he had done, ie, Waco, etc). Edwards, as a candidate in the primary, was charged with campaign finance violations for paying off his mistress in a similar but not identical scheme. He was not convicted, as I recall.
Mark Levin has convincingly argued that using personal money to make such payoffs is both legal and necessary as they are not "campaign expenses", which would negate any disclosure requirements. (Edwards used money from supporters to make the payoffs; the exact financial structure of Trump's payoffs is unknown).
As a layman, all I can tell you is that campaign finance laws are a legal morass that appears to be impossible to avoid violating. Politicians are regularly caught up in violations and pay fines. I can't recall any of them being removed from office over the matter.
It's short -- two pages -- and practically all of them are redacted. Notably, though, the unredacted portions do not faithfully describe who paid for the dossier. The description is technically accurate, but does not mention the Clintons, the Democrats, or political opposition research. Instead, the funding is described as coming from "private clients" only.
Remember, the FBI and DOJ knew where this was coming from. There is no way to spin this briefing document, being presented to the President, as anything less than deliberately deceptive. It was a weasel move, by a weasel of a man who does weasel things.
This release takes on a certain new significance given that Comey recently testified to Congress that he only knew the funding came from "private clients", not specifically who those clients were. It could even be argued that the release was timed to tell Comey what the documents said, so he could claim not to know anything more than what was in the documents.
State Dept disseminated Russiagate documents hours before Trump took office
We knew there was an effort to do this before, but we didn't know the details. Now we know more. It's noteworthy that Senator Corker, a Republican, is on the list of recipients. I seem to recall Corker was instrumental in getting the Iran deal through the Senate by pretending it wasn't a treaty (which would need a two-thirds vote). It's also noteworthy that this effort took place after Trump had won the election. In other words, rather than treating Trump as the incoming president due (at a minimum) respect, they conspired against him.
Detailed comments below the fold. My overall impression is that we, again, lost out by having this held in a public forum. Comey can hide behind that to avoid answering important questions. He can also hide behind the Mueller investigation. I'd like to see this all public, but getting there requires investigators to be able to ask about classified things so the answers can then be declassified.
Sullivan throws a wrench into the Flynn sentencing, but for the wrong reasons
Because Judge Sullivan has previously seen some political schemes and machinations from the FBI (notably the Ted Stevens case), some people were hopeful that he would see through the FBI bullshit. Instead he seems to have latched on to the failure to register as a foreign agent charges (which Flynn got out of by way of the plea bargain with Mueller) and threatened Flynn into cooperating more. Disappointing.
Gotta wonder if the Deep State got to Sullivan.
UPDATE: For clarity, the failure to register charges involved Turkey, not Russia.
Mueller cannot accept Whitaker as his boss and still complete the tasks he was given as special counsel. The real tasks, that is: keeping the attention on Trump and off of the Clintons' and Obama's malfeasance with our intelligence agencies and other crimes. So, of course he's going to report to Rosenstein first for as long as he can do so.
And that means Rosenstein has to go. Read the whole thing; there are 9 more reasons to fire Rosenstein immediately.
Comey talks to the media following second testimony
Comey testified to Congress for the second time today. He talked to the media afterwards. We should get a transcript sometime soon.
He says he was asked about "which form people filled out". This is either a reference to the 302s about the Flynn interview, or the procedures necessary to initiate a sensitive political investigation (which he previously admitted to not knowing or following).
He admits that he "took a decision away from Sally Yates" to avoid the appearance of political bias, which is the same reasoning he used when announcing that he would not recommend prosecuting Clinton himself (because Lynch was compromised by the tarmac meeting and other, unspecified, information). He says he did this "to make it necessary for Trump to burn down the entire FBI to stop the investigation" and was shocked that Trump was willing to do just that. He seems to think he is acting in a completely non-partisan manner and all his actions, no matter how improper or obviously partisan, are above reproach. It's disgusting.
Asked if he takes any responsibility for the hit the reputation of the FBI has taken, he blames Trump for "lying". That's bullshit; Comey was at the head of the agency while it behaved in a nakedly partisan manner to influence the Presidential election in 2016. Blaming Trump for the actions in which Trump was a victim is absurd, and he wasn't in office for the Clinton investigation.
He blames others and says they should be ashamed for being silent. This is the man who said he couldn't remember or didn't know under oath over 200 times.
He's "proud" of the way the FBI interviewed Flynn, despite admitting previously he "took advantage" of the chaos in the incoming administration.
He won't comment on whether the memos he leaked were classified. Of course not. That would embarrass him.
Guess what, Comey? You are a weasel who does weasel things.
Read the whole thing. But at least part of this answer is explained by the Hillary campaign needing a reason to pay Perkins Coie for legal services rather than opposition research. Casting Steele's dossier as legal services is batshit fucking insane, but that appears to be what they are trying to do. Imagining that they could challenge Trump's election if they lost on the basis of phantom Russian collusion should be even more batshit fucking insane, but it seems to be working so far.
Document here. Power Line analyzes it briefly, and finds that the denials that resulted in Flynn's guilty plea are actually pretty weak. Of the four things he supposedly lied about, two of them were more of a "I don't remember" than a lie, and the remaining two are still less than a firm denial. Given that Flynn was the incoming National Security Advisor and the conversations themselves were perfectly legitimate, I just don't see criminality here. Obviously a person will not remember his conversations with the perfect accuracy of a transcript. That's just how memory works.
If in fact Flynn did not accurately inform his superiors (Trump, Pence, etc) about the content of the conversation, that's a different question and possibly a firing offense regardless of intent. It's awkward, even potentially dangerous, to have your National Security Advisor talking to Russia and asking for things without passing that on. But that's a matter for Trump and Pence to consider, not something that criminal law really embraces. Especially not in a blatant perjury trap like this.
Actually, calling this a perjury trap seems inaccurate. A perjury trap is giving someone the opportunity to lie deliberately, knowing you can catch them in the lie. This was more like going to Flynn with the determination to manufacture a lie.
We're already pretty sure that the dossier on Trump and the Carter Page FISA warrant came from a desperate attempt to get legal authority for spying that Mike Rogers, as NSA Director, had cut off (and initiated an audit of). If Mike Flynn had intended to order an even broader audit, and this became known, and if the abuses were as common and as significant as they seem to be, then this would represent a huge motive for the entire Obama administration to go after him. They could safely fire Flynn to block his audit while the Obama administration was in power, but when Trump hired him, the Obama administration would surely realize the audit was back on the table.
Also -- the 302 on which they are basing the whole Flynn prosecution is an interview of Strzok after Lisa Page was fired and days before Strzok was fired. They were fired because the texts revealing their bias came out. Those texts came out at the same time. Therefore, Mueller know Strzok was compromised when he conducted this interview, and I can only assume Mueller kept Strzok on for a few more days solely or primarily to conduct this interview which he then used to charge Flynn. Why else keep him on for a few more days?
It seems the judge has noticed Flynn is being railroaded and hopefully is going to get the facts. I hope he does get them and throws out the charges. Better justice delayed than justice denied.
New emails reveal FBI knew FISA warrant on Page was fatally flawed
I used "flawed" in the headline to keep it short. We don't know exactly what the emails say, but read the article. It says the emails say the FBI knew pretty much everything we know now: the media contacts, the circular reporting used as evidence, Steele's bias and paid opposition research role, everything.
The FBI and DOJ bet the farm they could outlast two years of a Republican House by stonewalling and playing political games. They won that bet. But they made a similar bet with Trump about 2020, and that one is still in play.
Mueller deleted text messages from Page, Strzok phones
These were the phones used by Page and Strzok, now infamous for their thousands of biased text messages while they worked to exonerate Clinton and smear Trump, after the joined Mueller's team but before their texts were exposed. When those texts were exposed, they were forced to leave Mueller's team... and their phones were reset,destroying any text messages they had exchanged while working for Mueller.
The IG report proceeds to whitewash this clear destruction of evidence.
BOMBSHELL: Comey likely knew about the Trump tower meeting in June 2016
Why is this important? The meeting happened June 9th, and the investigation didn't open until the end of July, and Comey says he can't answer because the question touches on Mueller's investigation. But if he didn't know about the meeting he could answer that. If he knew, and can't answer, it's because it was related to the Mueller investigation -- which didn't exist at the time.
So Comey knew about the meeting before the investigation opened in July.
How? Did he get the information from Steele, or Perkins-Coie through Baker, or surveillance on Trump?
BOMBSHELL: Comey stumbles on Baker's contact with Perkins-Coie
Baker, FBI general counsel at the time, has testified that he received information from Perkins-Coie and passed it on to others. He said this was unusual ("unique", even). Comey is claiming to have absolutely no knowledge of this. Would Baker have done that and never mentioned it to Comey? Seems unlikely. My gut tells me Comey is lying here, and that he knew it was going on. Comey is claiming tips like that happened all the time, and he wants to see what Baker testified to before he answers. This is serious stumbling by Comey.
BOMBSHELL: Comey can't hold the end of July timeline!
Comey can't dance fast enough. He first denies any information gathering about Trump at the FBI before the last week of July, then walks it back and admits "it's possible I knew at the time." It was absolutely going on, and he absolutely knew about it (and still does, but he has to claim a memory lapse to avoid talking about it).
BOMBSHELL: Comey's lawyers agreed believing the testimony would be essentially public
I've discussed before that Comey and others are hiding behind classification rules and the fiction of a continuing investigation exception to protect themselves from answering dangerous questions. That's why Congress insisted that this testimony be taken behind closed doors. But Comey's lawyers seem to think that the agreement between Comey and Congress precludes such topics, effectively making the setting public and defeating the point of a closed hearing.
Manafort's passports do not show trips to meet Assange
So, maybe one stamp in 2016, but it might also be 2010. I imagine the date of that last stamp can probably be proven with other data. Even if Manafort was in London, it doesn't prove he met with Assange, but the lack of stamps relevant to all of the claimed meetings throws serious doubt on the accusations.
A new tidbit about Alexander Downer, Australian 007
The Australian diplomat who spoke to George Papadopoulus in a wine bar about Russians and may or may not have spoken about emails turns out to be a former Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Australian counterpart to the CIA reports directly to that position.
Gee, that doesn't sound like a setup at all, does it?
The Democrats are clearly terrified that replacing AG Sessions with acting-AG Whitaker will have dire consequences for their control and the dual sword and shield role he has played in preventing Trump from draining the national security swamp. They are openly threatening Whitaker should be exercise oversight over Mueller and his witch hunt. Given Mueller's utter lack of results related to the President and his campaign, that terror strongly suggests that Rod was covering for them and they know it. Without Rod and with Mueller neutered, their goose is cooked.
Luckily, Rod himself has already established the precedent for how the DOJ can handle subpoenas from the House of Representatives. Silence and counter-investigations.
What infuriates me is that Republicans held the House for years and held endless hearings without ever seriously taking the issues to court or otherwise seriously challenging the swamp creatures in DOJ and FBI. They had the chance to blow this thing wide open and they wimped out.
But this situation may not play well for the Democrats in 2020. When Republicans held the House, the Senate, and the White House, they were uneasy allies... a mix of true believers and swamp creatures surrounding Trump, a slugger with nothing to punch because they all pretended to be friends. If the Democrats give Trump something to punch for the next two years, they may end up regretting it.
Note: I don't endorse those tactics in general, but the Democrats badly need several large doses of their own medicine.
Over at Conservative Treehouse, there's a good explanation for something that has been puzzling me: the bizarre plea bargain of James Wolfe, which transformed the crime of leaking classified information to the media into a much lesser charge of lying to the FBI. The transition from a full-bore prosecution of leakers to a much reduced plea bargain now makes sense. What happened?
First, Sessions ordered a leak investigation, and that took place. It turned up (presumably among others) James Wolfe, who (as a staffer for the Senate intelligence committee) leaked classified information to (again among others) Ali Watkins. Everything was going swimmingly; he was arrested, charges were in the process, and so on.
Second, James Wolfe said he would go to trial, and that he would call Senators to testify in his defense. Presumably, he would say they ordered him to release the information, so it was not unauthorized. This became publicly known, and functions essentially as a blackmail threat, only in public. Suddenly, Senators are interested in helping with his defense.
Third, details of the indictment against Wolfe are leaked. The details basically prove that Wolfe leaked the unredacted Carter Page FISA warrant to the media.
Fourth, suddenly Wolfe gets a sweet plea deal and no need to call Senators to testify at his trial, which won't happen.
The question is, what happened between steps Three and Four?
The answer appears to be: The revelation that the leaked material was involved in the Russian Collusion investigation shifted supervision of the leak inquiry from AG Sessions to Rod Rosenstein due to Sessions' recusal from Russia matters. Rosenstein promptly plea-bargained with Wolfe to protect the Senators who participated in SpyGate.
That plea bargain demonstrates conclusively which side Rosenstein is on, and it isn't the side of Truth, Justice, and the Trump way.
Rosenstein must be removed from supervision of anything related to SpyGate. Removing Sessions, and his recusal bubble, is the simplest way the President can do that. And preventing a Senate-confirmed non-conflicted AG from taking over Rosenstein's current supervisory role is why Whitaker is under withering attack and the vote counts in Florida and possibly Arizona are being manipulated to keep the Republicans in the Senate from having a strong enough majority to confirm someone willing and able to properly cut this Gordian knot.
Funny how a supposedly non-political investigation had to wait until after the elections to begin writing their final report. I mean, I could understand waiting until after the elections to release it. But if you start writing immediately after the elections, it sort of suggests that you needed to know the outcome of those elections to determine what you would write.
The new acting AG will take over. This is normal. (Sessions was recused from Russian matters because he helped Trump with his campaign; the new acting AG has no such potential conflicts). I don't think anyone has a feel for the Acting AG on this issue yet -- except presumably Trump. So Rosenstein losing his supervision of Mueller is normal.
Rosenstein resigning on the other hand is not.
Did Trump finally accept the resignation Rosenstein had reportedly offered? Did the new acting AG ask for a resignation? Did Trump?
It looks like Trump is moving fast following the elections.
In a sane world, taking a meeting in which nothing of substance was offered and no money changed hands would be less serious than paying myriad unidentified Russian intelligence sources to lie about your political opponent and enable your own government to spy on said opponent.
Apparently we do not live in a sane world.
If the Dems won the House, Mueller was always going to come up with something to keep threatening Trump and avoid the full declassification that would expect the FBI, DOJ, CIA, etc to full sunlight.
I guess this is it. Mueller can effectively threaten Trump Jr with prosecution for that meeting and keep the threat live for another two years while Trump has to run for re-election.
What follows is my own summary of key information from the interview, but I urge you to listen to the whole interview at a minimum.
George was working (unknowingly) for an CIA-FBI front group. His employers set up the meeting with Mifsud (the supposed Russian agent) in a facility in Rome used to train western intelligence agents. The person who set up the meeting is the FBI's chief legal counsel in the UK. The people introducing Mifsud's companion as "Putin's niece" (she's not) were Director-level positions at the center, meaning they are all in the scheme.
George speculates (based on two news sources contacting him to ask about it) that there was a FISA warrant on him. That would be an explosive bombshell revelation, because we have only heard about the FISA warrant on Carter Page so far.
George describes traveling to Israel and being arrested and interrogated about social media campaign influence in the US. "Arrested" is perhaps an understatement; he said he was afraid for his life. (These were the people who gave him $10K intended to entrap him on returning to the US; George also suspects the bills were marked).
George describes a number of people offering him money and introducing him to women ("honeytraps"). One of them offered him $30K/mo and an office in New York... if he worked simultaneously for the Trump administration. That guy set up a lot of behavioral red flags and was recording the conversation. Papadopoulos refused the offer.
One of the honeytraps is named "Azra Turk" (a Turkish national). George suspects she is a CIA or western intelligence asset rather than FBI, which would also expand the scandal.
George describes a number of times when he was probably recorded, at least one in a meeting with Halper, and refuses to cooperate and asks to be left alone.
George describes his meeting with Australian ambassador Downer. It also included Downer's "girlfriend" an Australian intelligence officer. It was not a chance meeting, it was orchestrated. And George thinks that conversation was being recorded, and says emails did not come up during that conversation at all. George says that is false. George also says neither of the participants were drunk (one drink each) and that it was not a friendly meeting.
George says there was someone inside the Trump campaign acting as a confidential source and probably feeding information out to the FBI. Congress knows who they are. Hopefully the rest of the world will find out soon as the truth of this whole operation comes out.
Without the threat of immediate declassification hanging over his head, Rosenstein is feeling his Wheaties. If he went before Congress and testified honestly, it would be a disaster for him and fuel continued leaks to the press about what he said -- leaks that would be very personally damaging. And if he went before Congress and testified falsely, he would face criminal liability. Rosenstein feels like he's worked something out with Trump that will let him thumb his nose at Congress temporarily. Probably only temporarily, because his position still sucks. But long enough, perhaps, to get past the midterms.
Should Rosenstein be removed from Mueller investigation?
I think Rosenstein is clearly conflicted in the investigation, and has mistakes of his own to cover up. At the same time, Trump's threat to declassify material that would reveal Rosenstein's role gives Trump a certain amount of leverage on Rosenstein -- and thus on Mueller. To restrain Mueller, is it worth allowing Rosenstein to manage to exposure and cleanup of the FBI and DOJ corruption?
I don't trust Rosenstein and I don't want him in charge of anything. I don't think Rosenstein is a friend of the President. But I'm suspicious of leaks from McCabe (a known hostile) and testimony from James Baker (not known to be friendly) implying Rosenstein was a part of their operation and should be fired. Why would those two suddenly be talking up the coup unless they are trying to get Rosenstein fired? And why would they be trying to get Rosenstein fired unless they felt he was inimicable to their current interests?
My take is this:
1) The coup discussion was serious. We've had lots of press leaks about 25th amendment being invoked, and the meeting where this all started was right after James Comey got fired and right before Mueller was appointed. The obvious conclusion is that they decided at the meeting to get Mueller in place, meaning they rejected the other options.
2) The "wear a wire" comment was probably sarcastic. Wearing a wire to spy on the president would be suicidally stupid even for a trusted cabinet member. So Rosenstein was probably being sarcastic (not quite the same as joking...) about this but not about the rest.
3) The situation has changed a lot since then. Rosenstein, like Comey, is a weasel. Unlike Comey, Trump knows Rosenstein is a weasel and has a firm grip. Rosenstein has incentives to be a good little weasel until Trump is done with him, which should be as soon as Trump has put Mueller to bed and found a confirmable replacement for Rosenstein.
"Confirmed other evidence", which we haven't seen yet. That's going to be interesting when it comes out.
Those tapes should be interesting to hear, too. They will likely answer the question of whether the spies approaching various Trump campaign staff actually got anything worth opening an investigation. I suspect they did not, and the tapes will offer proof of that.
Who, or what, is the second source and why is it explosive?
We know about foreign intelligence helping out already, but we don't have official confirmation. And "key allies" practically begged Trump not to declassify, so something related to foreign intelligence is probably hiding behind the redactions. But what are the specifics?
That has certainly been the plan up until now. But Trump's order contains the word "immediate". And if they try to redact what they release, it also contains the words "without redaction".
Why would the DOJ defy such a Presidential order?
Rosenstein is toast. He incriminates himself by the public release of these documents, or he resigns in protest and they get released anyway, or he gets fired and they get released anyway. When you play the Game of Coups, you win or you go to jail, and it looks like Rosenstein is going to jail.
President Trump orders declassification of FISA warrant, texts
This is interesting. Obviously for anyone following SpyGate it's likely to be a gold mine of new information and confirmation of existing suspicions if and when it happens. But the manner in which is may happen seems interesting.
We're not just getting, say, leaks from Congressional staffers describing what they have seen in private, or yet another partial release of slightly less redacted material. The statement says "no redactions".
And we got it as a statement from the White House, not as an actual document release from DOJ. And we know Trump has been publicly (via Twitter and otherwise) pushing for this for some time, and (via less public channels) getting resistance and pushback. So what that tells me is that Trump is, publicly, through White House channels, issuing an order to his subordinates to declassify and release the documents.
Either those subordinates will follow the orders, or they will refuse and resign, or they will be fired.
That's why the order is public. It's to justify the firing if the order is refused.
We'll see what happens. But any of those three options lead to fireworks.
Bob Woodward found no evidence of Russian collusion, despite finding lots of other things people supposedly told him that they now deny telling him. I get the feeling he sold the book on Watergate 2 and then had to make up a lot of thinly sourced quotes when he didn't find shit.
We have confirmation from new Strzok text messages that he wanted to open a case and file charges within 2 hours of Comey being fired "while Andy is acting" (as in, presumably, while Andrew McCabe was acting as FBI director). More evidence the whole thing was planned out to target the President with an internal coup.
Lisa Page's deposition indicates that more than 9 months into their investigation of the Trump campaign, they had found no evidence of collusion, despite their use of national-security wiretap authority and multiple human sources. She frames it as "we still couldn't answer the question." A better characterization seems to be that they didn't like the answer.
It's amazing that it takes pressure from Congress, pressure from the President, and pressure from the legal system via groups like Judicial Watch to get these documents. It's almost like the FBI and DOJ, including the people making the decisions about what to release and what to withhold or redact, have something to hide.
Google openly opposed Trump, supported Hillary during campaign
I'm honestly not sure what the rules are here. This is clearly a lot more campaign-related than paying off a bimbo eruption, and it's not a person but a corporation doing it. And we have email proof not only that it happened, but that it was motivated to help one candidate rather than being non-partisan. Does that matter?
Read the whole article for more, including hints of a smart-phone-based voter record that "aggregates all that is known about them".
I'm skeptical about campaign finance regulation as a matter of principle, but there are all sorts of other potential issues here, including user privacy and abuse of a dominant market position.
Listen to the whole thing, especially if you haven't been keeping up. Dan covers the whole chain of events, from the NSA shutting down FBI contractor access to their database (were some of those contractors Fusion GPS and Nellie Ohr?), to the efforts to get a FISA warrant based on the dossier that likely came from that NSA database (due the Michael Cohen in Prague mistake), to the efforts to set up Page and Popadopoulos, to the Trump Tower meeting setup.
He picks up on a couple new points that I had missed. One is that Nellie Ohr was working for Fusion GPS all the way back to 2015. That means she was working at Fusion GPS while the FBI contractors (still unspecified) were abusing the NSA database (85%!!! of the accesses to the database did not comply with the appropriate privacy procedures).
A second is that Andrew Weissman was being kept in the loop by Bruce Ohr during the investigation and was then hired by Mueller for his special counsel investigation. So, Weissman (along with, at least, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page), was effectively investigating events he was involved in and likely has criminal liability in. And Weissman is still on Mueller's team.
Finally, Bongino goes through the links Mueller has to practically every significant figure involved in this case. Mueller is linked to Comey, to Russian oligarchs who helped the FBI investigate, to Hillary lawyers... the list goes on and on. Mueller practically knows every key player personally.
Is he going to rat on his friends? Of course not.
He's going to sweep the whole thing under the rug by keeping the focus on Trump.
Congressman Meadows sends letter demanding Ohr investigation
Not much actual news here; a Congressman sending a letter happens pretty often. But the demand to investigate Bruce Ohr and his involvement in Spygate is significant, as it indicates growing Congressional discontent with AG Sessions and John Huber, the prosecutor Sessions appointed to investigate Spygate. We have heard basically nothing about Huber's investigation so far, which could be good or bad; hearing nothing could mean there are no leaks or it could mean there is no activity to leak. Finding out that Ohr had not yet been interviewed when he testified to Congress on these matters appears to indicate that the needle is pointing more towards no activity to leak.
Apparently, it's because Jerome Corsi is connected to Roger Stone. Stone is an associate of Trump, apparently, and works with the National Enquirer. I assume this is Mueller following up on Cohen's guilty plea to "campaign finance" charges that involved shell corporations and payoffs to bimbo eruptions.
I use the term advisedly. Clinton was credibly alleged to have groped and even raped people, although his most famous affair with Lewinsky was consensual. Trump has been accused of having consensual sex and paying the women to keep quiet about it. When they don't, that's a bimbo eruption. Sorry, Stormy.
In any event, the odds that either Jerome Corsi or Roger Stone have anything to do with Russian collusion to influence the 2016 election -- which is Mueller's only area of authority -- seems very low. Mueller is likely looking for more "campaign finance" crimes he can use to coerce guilty pleas that purport to implicate Trump. And he wants those because he desperately needs leverage.
I have a hunch that this declassification process is what prompted Mueller's public negotiation attempt. Mueller's job (his real job) is to protect Obama, the intelligence community, the law enforcement community, and the Clintons, probably in that order. (There's a non-zero chance Obama is actually just above the Clintons on Mueller's priority list; if that's the case Obama should be very worried). Mueller needs to protect them because they went way, way out on a limb to spy on Trump during the presidential campaign, and if the full extent of their interference is exposed, it could easily lead to outrage or even criminal charges.
Declassifying documents so the general public can see them renders the FBI attempt to protect those documents moot, and plants a massive egg on the face of everyone involved -- including the intelligence community actors who have so far received relatively little scrutiny, and possibly (if not in these documents, then in later batches) on the political actors. If Trump starts declassifying things, that opens a can of worms that probably can't be closed. All the schemes would be exposed and the information out in public.
That's good for Trump, assuming he's innocent of the Russian collusion charge. That's why Mueller has been desperately digging for something else he can use as leverage. He's nailed a few people for tax issues and rarely-used registration laws, flipped Michael Cohen for more tax issues and got him to plead to a probably-invalid campaign finance crime, but it hasn't given him any real leverage on Trump. And it's Trump he needs leverage on to avoid the declassification scenario.
Rosenstein said it wasn't him. The Federalist makes a good case it was Sally Yates, who resigned rather than defend Trump's travel ban in court. That decision may have made headlines at the time, but it may also have removed her from a position where she could influence ongoing events in the Spygate matter. Oops.
The Obama admin stripped a Trump-supporting Pentagon analyst of his security clearance after the analyst complained about contracts with one Stefan Halper.
We are now pretty sure what Halper was doing for the money. He was trying to rig the election. And the White House stripped his clearances to shut him up -- both in general, and to prevent him accessing anything Halper was doing with his clearances.
Never mind that the other person he complained about was Chelsea Clinton.
One of the other big revelations from this Friday's document dump was the fact that the FBI did in fact pay Steele for his dossier work. This was rumored before, but now we know. This raises some interesting questions (like, was he getting paid twice for the same work?), but the main impact of this fact is that the FBI was funding Clinton's opposition research and smear campaign. Almost certainly knowing about his political motives and source of other funding.
It's one thing to take in information passively about a political figure, and investigate it if there is some merit and the information can be confirmed. It's quite another to pay the opposition research out of FBI coffers while he is no doubt continuing to dig up dirt. By nature of his employment, you can't trust the oppo guy to give you good information, and you certainly can't fund his efforts to get (or make up) more for political purposes.
The fact that Horowitz refused to take calls on this casts his entire report into doubt. His job wasn't to fix the problems, it was yet another modified limited hangout. Drop the information already known, but keep the remedies in-house and out of course by refusing to admit to bias actually influencing anything even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
Articles of Impeachment introduced against... Rosenstein?
The only problem with the idea of impeaching Rosenstein is that the Senate will never vote to convict. That said, a vote to impeach in the House would give Trump political cover to remove Rosenstein without being credibly accused of obstruction of justice. ("I don't want anyone in my administration who has been impeached by the House" is an entirely justifiable reason for firing Rosenstein). Similar rules can be applied to lower level officials with a simple majority in the House; the Senate might need some fiddling but putting the rule in a reconciliation bill should let it through with a simple majority. And the principle would be a significant step towards accountability when the President is, unfortunately, politically hamstrung by a conspiracy against him among his own officials.
More Cohen data leaked in violation of attorney-client privilege
Details here. Fox says the tape came from Lanny Davis, Cohen's attorney, rather than the police who raided Cohen. Whether this represents Cohen being cooperative, or Cohen making a desperate cry for help from Trump (financial or otherwise), is unknown. As far as I am concerned, the contents of the tape are a nothingburger; it's Trump discussing whether and/or how to pay off a playboy playmate to keep quiet about an alleged affair from over 10 years ago. If there's a crime here, it's blackmail, and Trump is the victim, and then doubly so for Cohen, his attorney, violating attorney-client privilege to release the tape, never mind taping his client in the first place. I don't give a shit about an alleged consensual affair while Trump was a private citizen.
House Intel committee asks POTUS to declassify part of FISA app
I sure would like to know what the House Intel committee thinks is under the redactions on those pages. You may also be interested in the broader summary of issues with the application. And they are serious issues. Andrew McCarthy, who spent some time defending the FISA application before he actually saw it, said this:
One of the questions that needs to be asked is "Is this the usual evidentiary standard for FISA cases?"
If so, the court needs to be shut down as a rubber stamp and the entire process redesigned and reformed.
If not, the judges who approved this application need to be examined for evidence of bias along with the FBI, DOJ, and intelligence community.
Trump considering revoking clearances of some Obama officials
With the exception of Hayden, whose name I don't recognize offhand, all of these people deserve to lose their clearances.
Comey: leaking to the press in an effort to impeach the president, lying to the president, being a weasel and doing weasel things.
Clapper: Involvement in the FISA abuse against the Trump campaign and administration, and leaking.
Brennan: Involvement in the FISA abuse against the Trump campaign and administration, and leaking. Plus voting for a communist party candidate.
Rice: Unmasking and lying about it.
McCabe: Already fired for lying and leaking, participated in the FISA abuse, and his wife took political contributions from Clinton while he was running the investigation into her emails.
UPDATE: Hayden was a CIA director for Bush and has been outspokenly anti-Trump. I'm not sure if frothing at the mouth while calling the current president Hitler is outside the bounds people holding a security clearance, but this one still seems a little questionable to me. Given their involvement in abusing the intelligence agencies against Trump, however, the rest should lose their clearances immediately.
House Judiciary Committee passes resolution demanding docs
Speaker Ryan has been generally squishier than I would like on this, but he appears to be on board for the moment. Presumably the testimony from Wray and Rosenstein Thursday will be their last chance to make excuses.
Trump tower meeting a nothingburger, says translator for Veselnitskaya
We don't have to take just his word for it. Remember, Fusion GPS was taking money from Russians to lobby Trump about the Magnitsky Act even as they were taking money from Hillary to "investigate" Trump. They could kill two birds with one stone by setting up a meeting with Trump Jr under false pretenses of providing dirt on Hillary and using it to try to sell Trump Jr on the Magnitsky act changes they wanted.
McConnell is one of the "gang of eight" Brennan briefed about the operation. Of course he wasn't surprised; he's heard it all before, at least assuming Brennan's individual briefings to each Gang of 8 member actually contained the same information. (I'm skeptical about that; why brief them individually then?)
So I'm not surprised that McConnell isn't surprised. McConnell is a swamp creature. The sooner he circles the drain, the better.
Despite the White House chief of staff showing up before the meeting to state the President's position that all possible information should be shared, the FBI and DOJ are still covering things up.
Of course this is what Mueller is going to do. There was never any doubt. Right before the election, he delivers his big indictments (or his report, if he can't actually get anything solid enough to indict), setting up a "blue wave" in the House followed immediately by impeachment hearings that last two more years and culminate in an impeachment vote immediately before the 2020 presidential election.
Derailing that won't be easy, but throwing Clinton and Obama and their minions in jail for abusing the national security infrastructure to steal a national election might just do it.
They are backpedaling frantically because they know they found nothing, and because their found nothing, their actions in Spygate open them to criminal prosecution. So, suddenly, they weren't investigating the Trump campaign at all, they were just trying to protect it from the Russians.
Remember all the news stories about how Trump didn't have a foreign policy team and asking who his foreign policy advisers were? The questions from the media that prompted Trump to prepare a list of advisers hastily and get it out there?
I wonder how many of those news stories could be traced back to Hillary and her campaign?
Of course he's using her as cover to wage a political operation. That's been obvious since day one.
Avenatti needs to come forward with his sources for the banking information because it was almost certainly obtained illegally and certainly was leaked illegally.
I'm not sure on the ethics of anyone hiring Trump's personal lawyer for advice on the incoming administration. That seems an ethical minefield. But it seems like that's on Cohen's ledger, not Trump's, even if it's true. The payments may be true, though some involve the wrong Michael Cohen, but why should we believe the alleged reason for them without proof? Avenatti is just as much a paid Democrat operative as Fusion GPS.
And I doubt Avenatti or other Democrat operatives could stand to have their financial records subjected to similar scrutiny. They won't like the new rules when Trump's DOJ and FBI find excuses to raid their lawyers' offices.
A gate of water by any other name would smell as foul
Fire them, reveal their name and crimes publicly, and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. The raid on Cohen's offices -- the personal lawyer of the President of the United States -- is quite literally worse than Watergate, because it was done under color of law.
Technically, Mueller doesn't have to care about public mockery and derision. But being taken seriously is the only defense he has against Trump simply choosing to fire him. It seems likely being forced to drop the charges against the Russians would effectively end Mueller's probe, being an admission that he doesn't have anything related to his mandate. If he failed to do so, Trump would easily be able to afford the political cost of firing him.
Page: "Please, my love, caress me and reassure me that Trump will never be my president."
Strzok: "Don't worry, my petunia. We'll stop him."
IG: "Because Strzok did not write down how, exactly, he would stop Trump becoming president, we cannot link this clear and obvious evidence of bias to any specific investigative act, therefore, no harm, no foul. However, we recommend a banner on all FBI-owned mobile devices reminding users they have no expectation of privacy while using them, to ensure such an embarrassing incident is never again revealed to the public."
His memo was about Comey's firing and what Rosenstein claimed Trump asked him to include in the memo. He gave the memo to Mueller. This appears to be part of a consistent pattern among the Obama administration holdovers and specifically the scheme team implicated in Spygate.
Most of the discussion of spying has been about Carter Page, because the FBI filed for a FISA warrant to spy on him based mostly on the Clinton-funded opposition research Steele dossier. But he's not the only direct individual victim. He's just the one we have the (obviously fraudulent and deficient) paperwork for. The others we know have been spied on via leaks, but not what legal justification was used.
Michael Flynn may have been intercepted talking to the Russian ambassador. It would be legal to wiretap the Russian ambassador pretty much constantly. But they waved BS Logan act violations around when he was the issue, which makes me think they got a warrant based on those allegations.
The rest we just don't know.
And don't forget the hundreds of "unmaskings" which are technically within the powers of some officials, but which were likely done in service of political motives.
House resolution to compel Rosenstein to release SpyGate documents
Gowdy and Ryan have previously expressed support for the FBI's position here, but Ryan is part of the Gang of 8 who would see them anyway (and who was probably briefed on at least some of the investigation earlier than the rest of Congress, so is somewhat tainted by it). Gowdy is probably just a blowhard who is easily talked into supporting law enforcement.
But the article says Jordan and Meadows spoke with Ryan and Gowdy before this announcement, so I assume they are behind it.
If so, let's hold the vote ASAP and force the FBI to start submitting to oversight. They have slow-walked long enough.
As for Ryan and Gowdy, both, apparently, have closets with flesh-challenged bones in them. Not really a surprise.
Note to Congress: start playing hardball. Appealing to Trump won't do much; he cant really interfere much while Mueller is active. It's up to Congress and oversight to get the information out there to help Huber.
Note to the DOJ: When you are denying that your official threatened Congressmen conducting legitimate oversight, it is not wise to repeat the threat:
As far as I am concerned, this is clear and unambiguous grounds for Trump to fire Rosenstein, and I wouldn't be surprised if that is exactly why it leaked.
Not said: the "someone working with Russians" is Christopher Steele, and he admitted paying Russians for the information compiled in the dossier. So, yes, Hillary (through several layers of cutouts) paid Russians to (probably) lie about Trump to produce opposition research. Probably the Hillary campaign, through Steele and Fusion GPS, were paying the Russians to cooperate in setting up the Trump campaign -- specifically the meeting with Veselnitskya.
The fact that Mueller, whose theoretical remit includes Russian interference in the US election, is not investigating this publicly known Russian collusion with the Hillary campaign is enough by itself to discredit his investigation.
The Democrats are hoping they can keep a lid on this until November, then win the House and shut down the investigations. Agents are probably right to fear massive retaliation, both political and personal.
What Mueller appears to be claiming is that he received his full mandate as special counsel from Rosenstein exclusively in verbal communications, meaning that only Rosenstein and Mueller together could agree on what was within or without the scope of the investigation.
I do not see how such a claim could possibly be valid or stand up to legal challenge.
Mueller is essentially claiming that, due to the lack of a written mandate, his authority derives from Rosenstein the man rather than the lawfully appointed (Acting) Attorney General. His unwritten mandate is fluid, and can change to meet the needs of the moment he finds himself in.
This is not consistent with the rule of law.
But of course, Rosenstein couldn't risk giving Mueller a well-defined mandate, because Mueller was going on a fishing expedition; he didn't know what he would find, but to be politically useful, he had to pursue whatever he found.
Review of Cohen's seized files not going well for prosecution
Remember, if it's privileged, the government should never have been able to see it at all. A warrant doesn't get around attorney-client privilege, the bar is much higher than that. And if it's not privileged, that doesn't mean it is in any way criminal. It just means the government got a warrant and can legally look at it and use the material.
FBI to share more details of informant with Congress?
I'll believe it when the members of Congress release the information publicly.
If you want to see the evidence, Ryan, you have to actually look at it.
So here's the catch: Halper didn't work on the Trump campaign. He only met with at least three members of the campaign, pumped them for information, and applied for a job with the campaign that he did not get.
So Halper -- who probably works for the CIA, not the FBI -- was certainly engaged in intelligence gathering from the Trump campaign. He was certainly spying on the campaign. If he was not "an informant within the campaign", it wasn't for lack of trying.
Report: Comey defied authority, Lynch rebuked in IG report
Given the timing and the subject matter covered, that means insubordinate to Obama's officials. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but the examples given by the leaker seem to be pointing towards Comey's decision to personally announce he would not recommend charges and to inform Congress that he was reopening the investigation shortly before the election.
Frankly, that sounds like a pro-Comey spin calculated to appeal to both sides. On the right, it reads as, "Gosh, look at this upright moral figure defying Obama's DOJ to do what he thought was right!" On the left, it reads as, "It's all Comey's fault Hillary lost! He should never have defied authority!"
Supposedly the report cites Comey for failing to consult with Lynch before his announcement. I don't know if he consulted her or not. I know that Lynch had publicly said she would take his recommendation while privately refusing to recuse herself after the tarmac summit, and I also know (from Page-Strzok texts) that Lynch knew damn well Hillary would be exonerated. So I'm not sure I buy this part.
In fact, the whole article reads like spin doctoring. I don't trust it. I want the real report.
No details on exactly what she was rebuked for, aside from (obviously) the tarmac meeting, but we've heard enough hints that there are more things she did that deserve rebuking.
Remember as you read that the article is based on leaks, and the leaks are likely coming from people with a personal stake in softening the report or directing the attention it gets in one direction or another.
McCabe requests criminal immunity in return for testimony
Should he get it? I will answer in six words. "The White House is running this." Except that McCabe has already been fired for lying to the FBI, so whether his testimony can be trusted is open to question.
I'd like to know what McCabe knows and who he can implicate, but this should be a plea bargain, not an immunity deal.
Even assuming he actually was colluding with Israel -- which I don't actually assume, other than hypothetically -- this is a long ways away from colluding with Russia. And Mueller's brief only covers colluding with Russia.
At some point, you have to stop Mueller from charging people with made-up crimes unrelated to his limited special counsel mandate just to get leverage.
And before saying Trump should just start pardoning people, there's an argument that's what Mueller wants. While there's an active investigation Mueller can claim was being "obstructed", Trump would be wise to avoid any directly connected pardons. Not because use of the pardon power could be criminal obstruction of justice, but because Mueller would certainly describe it that way to Congress in an impeachment report.
I don't know if Papadopoulos was colluding with Israel, or Russia, or anyone at all. I do know that Dan Bongino's show from June 5th, 2018, floated the interesting idea that Papadopoulos was arrested in a hurry -- without even getting a warrant ahead of time -- on the same day the IG notified Mueller's team of the text messages from Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, and also that Papadopoulos mentioned the "Maltese Professor" Mifsud before being very vigorously told to shut up. Bongino speculates that Mifsud was the push component, trying to put information about Hillary's emails from Russians into the Trump campaign, so that Halper and others could try to pull the information out and use it against Trump.
If that read is accurate, Papadopoulos was arrested to shut him up so that the information about Mifsud and the entrapment side of the operation would stay quiet.
I don't think it's going to stay quiet. I think it's out there now, and the effort to shut Papadopoulos up was too little too late.
John Solomon, of The Hill, has two pieces of supposedly breaking news about Spygate. The only thing actually new in his breaking news is the justifications and excuses his sources are offering to try to spin the story.
The first is that the FBI began spying on the Trump campaign before the investigation had an official predicate:
That's not so much a scoop as an admission. We've known that the investigation, including the actions by the spy Halper, took place earlier than July, and that the investigation supposedly started in July. There have been efforts to try to push the date backwards, but those have now failed; Solomon's sources appear to be admitting the approaches by Halper started before the official investigation was opened, and that that was a violation of the the rules.
But it's also there to conceal the big admission: the Obama White House was involved.
Those words (bolded above) were redacted in the original release, if I remember correctly. And the spin is where Solomon says the White House was trying to take over the investigation. That's not what the message says. The White House is running this. Not trying to, and being rebuffed by loyal nonpartisan FBI agents. Is Running.
In other words, we have documentary evidence (and likely testimony from Page and Strzok as cooperating witnesses, at a minimum) that the political spying on Trump was run from the White House, and Rice's email to herself demonstrates that it was run right from the top -- Obama himself. Mind you, Rice was trying to cover for him by saying Obama told them to do it all "by the book". But the evidence is that the FBI, CIA, NSA, and others did not do it "by the book". The evidence makes Rice's email a transparently self-serving cover story. It also exposes as a lie Ben Rhodes' claim in his book that Obama did not know about the investigation until he left office. Oops; in their hurry to cover their own ass they forget to coordinate their stories.
Unless Obama left a paper trail of secret pardons on his way out the door, people will be going to jail for this.
But Mueller can't admit that (if he even knows) because it would destroy the Russian collusion narrative. The DNC email "hack" is the black hole that the whole scandal revolves around without ever shedding any light.