DOJ settlement awards SpyGate figure McCabe his pension back
There's some speculation about what this means for Durham deciding whether or not McCabe gets criminally charged. I don't really see those things as connected. Main DOJ wants to protect the people involved. That's what this is. It's a settlement of a lawsuit, not any sense of clearing McCabe of wrongdoing. DOJ just wants to do a favor for one of their own by restoring his pension.
Durham will charge, or not, without getting involved one way or the other.
The fact that even the minimal punishment applied to McCabe for attempting to influence an election and then participating in the Mueller coup attempt was wiped out is infuriating, and it may well be meant as some kind of subtle hint to Durham that McCabe is protected. But I also don't think it's really necessary to read that far into it.
Durham may well have been warned off DOJ/FBI people in his investigation, but if so, I don't think that communication is happening by press release and coded settlement offers.
Another optimist who sees more indictments coming.
I think more indictments are possible, but likely only of figures outside the current administration and FBI/DOJ. All the key figures who abused their power here are either wrist-slapped and retired or still in place. Durham may be hoping for a break from someone on the outside to make a slam-dunk case against bigger fish.
It's worth noting that one of the potential big fish is Jake Sullivan, named in the indictment as Clinton's foreign policy advisor, and current National Security Advisor to Biden.
Let me be one of the first to stay that Sussman did not kill himself.
Dem/Clinton lawyer indicted by Durham for lying to FBI
For some background on what this might mean. I will add that this is, not surprisingly, an effective whitewash for the FBI itself. One agent gets charged for falsifying documents to the court (and only because he was stupid enough to alter them and get caught), everyone else in government gets off scott free while pointing the finger at the people outside of government who "misled" them.
Durham should get his claws into whoever he can, but we all know the FBI themselves are the people who abused their power and tampered with an election, then conducted a running series of coup attempts on the elected president. They should not get away with it, but it seems like they are going to.
My take is less optimistic. While it would be nice if Durham has managed to collect enough evidence to indict a key figure (and thus to pressure him to testify against other key figures, potentially including the clients who hired him to present this hoax to the FBI), Durham still has to ask permission from Biden's DOJ to actually do anything. And both Barr and Durham have repeatedly disappointed the hopes for justice raised by media leaks.
So my policy remains no excitement until an indictment.
FBI targeting of Trump campaign far wider than originally thought
Read the whole thing.
Perhaps most telling is the focus on finding information from Russian connections that could be damaging to Hillary Clinton. That suggests that such information exists, is real, and would be very damaging if revealed. It also suggests the purpose of the investigation was political -- to protect Hillary, first, and to damage Trump and discredit any information that did come out, second -- rather than a true counterintelligence investigation.
Durham, and therefore Barr, were always cover-up agents for the Deep State. Their mission was to look tough and thus delay Trump from doing anything effective while in office. This is merely the final admission of their role.
Government "can neither confirm nor deny" they fabricated Russian fingerprints
As far as I am concerned, this proves the counter-narrative: Seth Rich leaked the DNC emails to Wikileaks and was killed for it, after which the US government (FBI, CIA and possibly other agencies) covered it up. The details are foggy, but the coverup is proven.
I originally read this as being all SpyGate documents, but ... it's just what the FBI had. That leaves a lot of room for CIA and other agencies to be hiding even more.
I think this declassification is welcome and necessary. I expect the contents will be very embarrassing to the FBI, and probably says a lot about the confidence Trump has in Special Counsel Durham -- which is to say, very little confidence, an opinion I share.
Brennan briefed Obama about Hillary's Russian Collusion plot
What's important about this new Spygate bombshell is that Brennan found out about this plot to smear the Trump campaign with false accusations of Russian collusion from Russian sources (demonstrating the Russians knew of it, and thus could "helpfully" supply false accusations) and then briefed Obama (and presumably VP Biden) about it, demonstrating that Obama's decision to order the FBI to continue to investigate those false accusations was made while provably aware that the accusations were groundless.
In fact, the Intelligence Community allegedly referred the allegations about Clinton's Russian Collusion scheme to the FBI for investigation on September 7th, 2016, well before the election.
That's not "Hey, maybe the Trump campaign is colluding with Russia"; it's "Hey, the Clinton campaign is trying to spread false allegations that the Trump campaign is colluding with Russia".
And yet, the FBI already had an investigation open based on those false accusations and continued to pursue it, even well past the election.
If this claim by Brennan and the intel community can be proven, it would seem to put the FBI on the hot seat for knowingly pursuing false allegations against the Trump campaign and then the Trump administration.
UPDATE: Probably also worth noting specifically. When something is "referred to the FBI", the usual context appears to be referring a potentially criminal act for the FBI to investigate. So if Clinton's attempt to falsely link the Trump campaign to Russia is being referred to the FBI, it's not being referred because the FBI should investigate whether Trump is linked to the FBI (as actually happened); what the FBI should be investigating is whether Clinton is trying to frame her political opponent.
Rosenstein testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee
Feinstein, who was involved on the Senate Intel Committee when this was going on, is the ranking minority member. Lindsey Graham chairs the committee, a Republican whose bark is louder and more painful than his bite.
So far, my impression is that Rosenstein is not going to do well, and claim to be basically ignorant of anything. With regard to the FISA approval he signed, he claims he relied on what he was told was in the application -- meaning he is claiming he signed it without reading it. He can't identify anything McCabe lied to him about, even in hindsight, though he does admit there were some things that he felt McCabe was not candid about. So far he's trying to defend his decisions based on what he claims to have known at the time (versus what we know now). That's basically claiming ignorance of everything his subordinates were doing.
One sticky point is that he was asked if any of the investigative steps Mueller took relied upon the Steele dossier. Rosenstein says he doesn't know about individual steps. That's a dodge. Mueller got at least one renewal of the Page FISA which was almost entirely based on Steele's "information".
Dana Boente forced to resign from FBI over SpyGate
We get a kind of backwards confirmation that there were multiple FISA warrants on Flynn, because one of the justifications for letting Boente go was that he signed them. I'm not sure if that is accurate or if the story is confusing the warrants on Page with warrants on Flynn. But Boente was definitely involved and is now gone.
I call this progress, but justice will require more than resignations.
Analysis. Basically Rice says that Comey had concerns about Flynn (as incoming National Security Advisor) speaking frequently to the Russian ambassador; not that classified information was being passed but that "the level of communication was unusual". There's some back and forth between Comey and Obama about whether they should hide information from Flynn.
The previously redacted portion is basically portraying all of this information about Flynn and the suggestions for how to deal with him as coming from Comey. I believe this to be defensively self-serving and untrustworthy.
UPDATE: I have an additional take here, upon reflection. It involves exactly what information the outgoing Obama admin is trying to hide from the incoming Trump administration. It's clearly not just generic sensitive information related to Russia. Such a policy would be impossible to enforce and would raise huge questions immediately. So it's not that. It's something specific.
It's the counterintelligence investigation into Flynn and Trump specifically. In other words -- the cover up.
Barr says he does not expect criminal probe of Obama or Biden
Bill Quick finds this disappointing. I do too, but I think there's a bit of a different perspective. I've commented before that a lot of what happened in 2019 (and really, in 2017 and 2018 too) was a negotiation between the Deep State and Trump. The Mueller investigation threatened impeachment to paralyze the President while the House Intel Committee investigated the Deep State. The negotiation was simple: mutually assured destruction, or drop the investigations. In 2018 the roles swapped; the Dems took the House and threatened impeachment, but Trump and Barr shut down Mueller and begin seriously investigating the Deep State. This made impeachment inevitable, but the details were to-be-determined and essentially irrelevant. It was always going to be some pretext, and so it was. But Trump did not blink, and beat the impeachment. Given the Senate, impeachment was always more of a public relations and reputational threat, and Trump proved stronger than those who sought to intimidate him.
Now Trump, through Barr, is setting the terms. He's saying to the Deep State: I won't go after Obama or Biden criminally. I'll expose them, but not prosecute. I'll beat Biden to a bloody pulp (politically, in the election) but I won't prosecute him and I won't prosecute Obama. Everyone else who participated is fair game.
That's the last peace offer the Deep State gets. They can stop the BS and have a fair 2020 election for all the marbles (and likely lose because Biden is both pathetic and compromised in Obamagate), but have their two major leadership figures left with freedom if not reputations intact... OR, the Deep State can fight dirty, tooth and nail, bring another impeachment right before the election or whatever else they plan to do. And if they choose to fight dirty, Trump withdraws the offer of protection, leaving Obama and Biden to face the legal consequences of their actions if (when) he wins in 2020.
It would be very disappointing for Obama and Biden to escape consequences. But remember that Barr is speaking hypothetically here. He doesn't "expect" either of them to face a criminal investigation or charges. That can change.
In his call with former officials, Obama says that the result of justice here puts the rule of law at risk. That is obviously bullshit; just look at the many Obama officials who lied to Congress and never even got charged with perjury for it. The actual threat to the rule of law comes from the Obama administration using the FBI and intelligence agencies to try to swing the outcome of an election, and then remove the duly-elected President in a political coup. The plot to frame Michael Flynn was only one of many actions taken by Obama that are better suited to a third world dictator than a US president.
Roger Stone alleges Special Counsel asked him to lie
This is not quite surprising or detailed enough to be a bombshell. Of course the special counsel is going to "ask" Stone to implicate others in the matter he is investigating. Of course the special counsel is not supposed to solicit lies, but he is supposed to apply pressure to get to the truth. Exactly how outrageous this is depends a lot on the details of that pressure and whether Stone was explicitly asked or pressured to lie.
But in the larger context, knowing there was nothing to any of this, the pressure looks particularly suspicious and improper.
So, they looked into Flynn, and asked other agencies for any derogatory information they have on him. (Gosh, do you think that information might also be useful to a political campaign?) They didn't actually get any, so the investigation was closed... except:
So Strzok ordered that the investigation stay open, stating that "the 7th floor" was involved. The top level of the FBI -- meaning Comey, McCabe, etc -- have offices on the 7th floor. That was January 4th. What happened on January 5th?
Note that, however strongly worded the letter may be, it is effectively demanding new policies and procedures rather than issuing contempt of court orders. Thus, it is unlikely to deter further abuses as none of the people involved have suffered real consequences... at least so far. Durham is still in play.
Durham's SpyGate investigation is now officially a criminal investigation
I'm honestly not sure why this step is only being taken now; it seems likely there was more than enough available evidence before. My guess is that Durham and Barr wanted to keep the investigation a non-criminal one as long as possible for some policy or procedural reason, and this change has some policy or procedural reason to be happening right now.
First, Clapper and Brennan have been making noise in public about Durham wanting to interview them. Why would they make noise about that? The only reason that makes sense is that they think they are targets and would be at risk if they were interviewed. They are probably right about that; they are almost certainly targets, and sitting to an interview would make them sitting ducks for the kind of perjury trap that got Michael Flynn in so much trouble. So, likely they refused to be interviewed voluntarily, and they are no longer employed by the government, so IG Horowitz doesn't have any lever to make them agree. A criminal investigation can compel them to either talk, or plead the 5th.
It's now generally accepted, if not 100% proven, that the Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a mysterious Russian woman was set up by Fusion GPS. Among other evidence, the woman met with Fusion GPS both before and after the meeting. And, of course, Fusion GPS was working with the Hillary campaign and Christopher Steele to convince the FBI to investigate the Trump campaign for Russian collusion that did not exist.
As far as I know, this is new information, and it would be devastating to the FBI's narrative if they were directing Sater to encourage deals with the Russians while they were trying to investigate the Trump campaign for Russian connections. And, yes, the Russian building angle has been used in various Democrat attempts to smear Trump, most particularly with respect to Cohen's congressional testimony.
And, conveniently, Sater was mentioned in the Mueller report several times but not his status as an informant. That's not necessarily surprising (it's reasonable to put a high priority on protecting the names of sources) but when those sources are being used to entrap innocent people and conduct a political coup, the public interest outweighs the secrecy.
We've heard brief mentions of the FBI's "verification log", essentially a spreadsheet laying out the claims that Steele made and what had been found when those claims were looked into. But now, John Solomon is reporting on the details of that spreadsheet, and it's messy. It also proves exactly how much the FBI knew about Steele's credibility when they applied for the warrants.
Hannity thinks so. I think so, and I have for a long time, on a low-key way. Why? Some of the messages between Page and Strzok read, to me, like Page was very much not happy with Strzok towards the end. It sounded like a woman scorned and the end of an affair. (and, you know, having your "I had an affair with my coworker while plotting a coup" text messages published nationally seems likely to end an affair by itself). Not to mention she is still married (NOT to Strzok, but her original husband) which is not compatible with staying loyal to Strzok. And if that's the mindset she is in, cooperating is the logical course. Plus, trying to stay out of jail is a big incentive too.
So, yeah, it wouldn't surprise me a bit if Lisa is cooperating. But this is the first time we're seeing people talk about it...
BOMBSHELL: Mifsud prepared to testify to setup operation
So here's the deal. Mifsud -- a man with extensive ties to Western intelligence agencies and politicians with documented photographic evidence -- says he was tasked with meeting Papadopoulos and feeling him information on Russian dirt about Hillary. Mifsud then says he was tasked with introducing Papadopoulos to Russians. Again, tasked. Later, Papadopoulos talks with Downer and mentions Russian dirt on Hillary. (No emails mentioned either time -- all three parties agree on this).
It seems certain now that this whole operation was a setup designed to give the FBI a deniable reason to get an investigation opened into the Trump campaign. And the deception continued past the election, past the inauguration, all the way into the Mueller report, which describes Mifsud as a Russian agent.
So who tasked Mifsud with setting up Papadopoulos? Let's follow that up the chain.
McCabe, Strzok sue ... alleging politically motivated firing
It's hard to believe these lawsuits (Strzok, McCabe) will have any merit after what the IG report has said about them and their behavior. McCabe already features prominently in one report that described him as "lacking candor" (ie, lying) to the IG, and both he and Strzok were major players in the Hillary email investigation (yes, another IG report on that topic) plus the currently unreleased report in progress on FISA abuse. These two should feel lucky they aren't in jail; instead they are suing...
But they have a reason, and I think I know what it is. If there are indictments coming down for them, as part of the IG's report, they'll need money for lawyers. Probably they have already found lawyers and have been prepping for this. Suing for unlawful termination is a useful move to prepare the battlefield in the media and invite a future jury to view any prosecutions through a political lens.
More importantly, with the lawsuits comes the ability to open up a gofundme account for "legal expenses" that will probably flow to the same lawyers preparing to defend them from criminal charges. And it's a lot easier to get people to donate to your lawsuit over "unlawful termination" than over your defense against criminal charges of lying, leaking, and spying.
It may also be useful as a shield against media inquiries when the IG report is released (as in "I can't comment on pending litigation").
Looks like we're going to get declassification starting ... tomorrow?
... according to Joe DiGenova. The catalyst was removing DNI Coats, an Obama holdover. DiGenova also indicated in very strong terms that this is a criminal investigation of an attempted coup, not just an internal review.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
That's where the sudden need for a FISA warrant came from. Most likely, if the Obama administration (following Mike Roger's audit) had simply dropped the issue, punished the contractors, and let the election happen normally, it would have all been swept under the carpet. Instead, they doubled down, got their FISA warrant under false pretenses, and tried to use it to cover up their past activities and make sure Trump lost.