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.
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.
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.
Clinton answers to Judicial Watch on her email system
She's claimed to have used it for "the purpose of convenience" before, which (considering it gets to her state of mind) might be hard to disprove. But there are likely to be some emails buried within the system (hers, State Dept's, or both) with people asking her about why she is using it instead of a normal State.gov account. We've seen some, and how brutally she shut down those questions.
A determined prosecutor should be able to leverage her attorney's obvious-in-hindsight lie about 90 to 95 percent of her emails being in the State's system (via her writing to people at State) to get her attorneys to flip. If they really want to. I doubt anyone at DOJ really wants to.
Remember, Comey argued Clinton couldn't be prosecuted because evidence of guilt was missing. But Clinton immediately moved to delete her emails as soon as she was subpoena'd by Congress for them. That's evidence of guilty intent.
Hillary to be required to answer questions under oath
I don't really care what Hillary does at this point in her life, except that she's indicated she intends to run again in 2020. And if she intends to try to evade recordkeeping laws and FOIA laws in the same way she did as SecState, that's a problem.
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.
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.
Judicial Watch finds evidence review of laptop was not complete
The big deal here is that Strzok initially ignored the evidence on the laptop, then (under pressure from mounting leaks about the existence of the evidence) Comey sent a letter to Congress purporting to clear Hillary of wrongdoing. The way the draft was written (indicating the review was not complete, but they could use the draft if the review supported the conclusions expressed) suggests that the outcome was preordained in a manner remarkably similar to Comey's original speech clearing Clinton. Unless there is a similar draft stating "We found all this new classified material, and Hillary is guilty as sin", then the FBI's bias is clear.
Of course, that bias has already been clear for some time, but this just piles more evidence on top.
I do wonder if the IG had access to this email when writing his report?
Remember the laptop they found while investigating Weiner just a few weeks before the election in 2016? Remember that the laptop contained hundreds of thousands of Hillary emails (as pointed out by the people who found it initially, New York agents)? Remember how the FBI announced, just a few days before the election, that they had examined the laptop and found no new emails, so Hillary was still in the clear?
Apparently, buried in a document release, there is an admission that the FBI had not examined the laptop on November 9th... the day after the election. Which means... when they told the public right before the election that they had examined the laptop and not found anything new... they were lying.
Given the number of emails on the laptop, based on those early reports before the DC office of the FBI got their hands on it, I would be very surprised if there were no new emails at all. Maybe nothing new that was criminal (or at least not immediately obvious as criminal). Maybe nothing new that was classified. But nothing new at all?
Obviously they didn't even bother to look, and now we have proof.
Another interesting point is that the document is a request by Strzok for the FBI's tech guys to examine Huma Abedin's laptop "for evidence of intrusion". By hackers, one presumes. That request has nothing to do with analyzing the emails on the laptop as they relate to the Hillary email investigation. "No evidence of intrusion" does NOT mean that the Hillary emails were secure, or that they did not contain any classified or criminal investigation. It just means no one hacked that particular laptop to get them.
And the final interesting point.
This contradicts Strzok's claims to the IG in his report.
UPDATE: There's actually a second "successor" server. I think we knew this from when the email servers themselves were the scandal, not the investigation of them. The exact significance of the second server is unknown at this time.
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.
At update on Sharyl Attkisson's computer intrusion case
Read the whole thing. Disturbingly, she went to IG Horowitz -- the same man responsible for the recent IG report on the Clinton email investigation -- and he appears to be covering up the results of his investigation.
This is different from the story I recently linked containing 12 things to know about the IG report. Remarkably, both lists include different things. So there are at least 23 things to know about the IG report.
About that claim that decisions could not be linked to bias...
It's like the executive summary and recommendations were written by different people than those investigating the facts... and the former were influenced by the same bias they are supposed to be investigating.
FBI agents assessed Clinton in her interview as impossible to believe
And yet Michael Flynn was hounded out of Washington, forced to sell his house, had his family threatened, and eventually pled guilty... while Clinton was publicly exonerated and her political opponent spied on.
FBI agent claims agents are biased, witness lied his ass off and won't be charged
So, let me get this straight.
The agent who interviewed one of the people at Clinton's residence described their testimony thus: First they never saw the SCIF. Then they looked in while it was being built. Then they removed the trash twice. Then they troubleshooted the secure fax with Hillary. Then they were there every time Hillary did a secure fax... even if he said the truth and didn't have a clearance when handling the secure fax -- ain't noone gonna do shit.
And he was right. No one gonna do shit.
Because the IG cannot connect the evidence of obvious bias to any specific investigative decision... because no one wrote down that they were making a specific investigative decision to screw Trump and elect Hillary. They didn't need to write it down. It was known. It was in the atmosphere. It was pervasive.
We found an email marked Secret on Hillary's email. And we know "foreign actors" obtained access to Hillary's emails, including the one marked Secret. And we know that Hillary's staffers' email accounts were also compromised. But no one followed up, and the exoneration speech by Comey had its wording changed to say it was "possible" foreign actors had accessed that email marked Secret -- instead of "likely".
But there's nothing to see here. No one needs to be held to account for failing to protect classified information even though a foreign actor is likely to have actually accessed that information, which would cause harm to national security.
Oh, and our man Peter Strzok, who was going to "stop" Trump from becoming President, was the one to change the wording of Comey's exoneration speech from "grossly negligent" (the legal standard defined in the law which the FBI is supposed to enforce) to "extremely careless".
But none of the obvious bias can be connected to specific investigative decisions, so it's all hunky-dory.
IG: FBI offi0cials with no reason to have media contacts accepted bribes from reporters, including meals, tickets to sports events, golf outings, and invitations to private social events. But we won't prosecute anyone for taking bribes or leaking to the media, because that would create the appearance of impropriety. We can just sweep this under the rug with a good, solid slap on the wrist. Probably all these honest, hard-working FBI agents just need to be reminded that we have a policy that forbids bribery, leaking, and coup attempts.
Clinton's $700,000 donations to Andrew McCabe's wife's campaign, making up more than 40% of her campaign's funds, created an appearance of impropriety, but because McCabe wasn't caught taking bribes to fix the Clinton email investigation until immediately before the election, we'll let him get away with it. This time.
And Kadzik really should have waited until after the investigation had completed the whitewash before trying to get his son a job with the Clinton campaign. That looked really bad.
And oops! McCabe should have stuck to his recusal after he recused himself, but he's not a Republican, so we won't charge him. This time. Maybe next time.
And Kadzik should have known that letting friends of the target of an investigation know that they are going to be questioned about it ahead of time would create an appearance of conflict, but it's only an appearance, not an actual conflict, so we're good so long as he adheres to the terms of his recusal after being caught. Except he didn't? Oh well, no big deal, right?
And [unidentified agent] was all "Viva le Resistance!" while working at the FBI, so he's resisting his boss.
And oh, by the way, the President communicated with Clinton via her insecure email server, using a pseudonym. But none of those emails were classified, because you can't charge the President with mishandling classified material; if he releases it by emailing it to Clinton on her insecure server, it's obviously no longer classified even if it gets sources killed and reveals methods.
And the President lied about it, of course. What, did you expect him to take responsibility for anything?
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."
IG report on Clinton email investigation out today at 3pm
Open question: will the IG report blame the FBI for Clinton losing the election because they were biased against Clinton, or blame the FBI for Clinton losing the election because they were corruptly and obviously in the tank to clear her?