Russian Hacking and Collusion: Put the Cards on the Table
The notion that Russia interfered in the election to help Donald Trump was a John Brennan/James Clapper confection created in an unorthodox way, and defied logic, given that Hillary and her associates had far closer connections to Russia than Trump or his associates did. John Merline writes at Investor's Business Daily:
THE CLINTON FAMILY BUSINESS [snip]
Bill Clinton received half a million dollars in 2010 for a speech he gave in Moscow, paid by a Russian firm, Renaissance Capital, that has ties to Russian intelligence. The Clinton Foundation took money from Russian officials and oligarchs, including Victor Kekselberg, a Putin confidant. The Foundation also received millions of dollars from Uranium One, which was sold to the Russian government in 2010, giving Russia control of 20% of the uranium deposits in the U.S. — the sale required approval from Hillary Clinton's State Department. What's more, at least some of these donations weren't disclosed. "Ian Telfer, the head of the Russian government's uranium company, Uranium One, made four foreign donations totaling $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all such donors," the Times has reported.
JOHN PODESTA In March -- that is, long after the election was over -- it was revealed that Mrs. Clinton's campaign chairman had failed to disclose the receipt of 75,000 shares of stock from a Kremlin-financed company -- Joule Unlimited -- for which he served as director from 2010 to 2014, when he joined the Obama White House in 2014. Podesta apparently had a large chunk of the shares transferred to "Leonidio Holdings, a brand-new entity he incorporated only on Dec. 20, 2013, about 10 days before he entered the White House," according to a news account.
TONY PODESTA Mr. Podesta's bother, who has close personal and business relations with Mrs. Clinton, was "key lobbyist on behalf of Sberbank, according to Senate lobbying disclosure forms. His firm received more than $24 million in fees in 2016, much of it coming from foreign governments, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics," a March news story reported. The bank was "seeking to end one of the Obama administration's economic sanctions against that country." The report goes on to note that "Podesta's efforts were a key part of under-the-radar lobbying during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign led mainly by veteran Democratic strategists to remove sanctions against Sberbank and VTB Capital, Russia's second largest bank." Mr. Obama imposed the sanctions following the Russian seizure of the Crimean region of Ukraine in 2014.
JOHN BREAUX Forbes magazine reports that Mr. Breaux, a former Senator from Louisiana who cut radio ads for Mrs. Clinton's 2008 campaign, represents Gazprombank GPB, a subsidiary of Russia's third largest bank, on "banking laws and regulations, including applicable sanctions."
THE CLINTON CAMPAIGN In March, Mr. Putin's spokesman said that Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak met with members of Mrs. Clinton's campaign several times while she was running for president in 2016. Further, the campaign never disclosed the number or nature of these secret meetings.
As the great Sharyl Attkisson reports, 12 prominent public statements by those on both sides of the aisle who reviewed the evidence or been briefed on it confirmed there was no evidence of Russia trying to help Trump in the election or colluding with him:
- The New York Times (Nov 1, 2016);
- House Speaker Paul Ryan (Feb, 26, 2017);
- Former DNI James Clapper , March 5, 2017);
- Devin Nunes Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, March 20, 2017);
- James Comey, March 20, 2017;
- Rep. Chris Stewart, House Intelligence Committee, March 20, 2017;
- Rep. Adam Schiff, House Intelligence committee, April 2, 2017);
- Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senate Intelligence Committee, May 3, 2017);
- Sen. Joe Manchin Senate Intelligence Committee, May 8, 2017;
- James Clapper (again) (May 8, 2017);
- Rep. Maxine Waters, May 9, 2017);
- President Donald Trump,(May 9, 2017).
- Senator Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, indicated that his briefing confirmed Dianne Feinstein’s view that the President was not under investigation for colluding with the Russians.
The firing of FBI Director James Comey caught both the media and press off guard. Up until a few hours before the firing, prominent Democrats had been calling for him to resign or be fired and the media had been critical of his performance. There have been many leaks about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn collected from government surveillance and unmasked and read by others, including recently fired acting attorney general and former DNI Clapper (and who knows how many others since that information was shared with others in the government). As the author of the Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web observes: “Whoever has been leaking classified information, reporters might want to start asking their sources why the leaks never seem to contain any collusion evidence. They might also ask Mr. Schiff what it would take to get him interested in investigating potential abuses by his political allies.
Law professor Jonathan Turley says much the same thing: “No one has yet to explain to me what the core crime that would be investigated with regards to Russian influence,' Turley said Wednesday evening. "I don't see the crime, so I don't see how it's closing in on Trump."
"For weeks I've questioned the need for special counsel because honestly I still don't see the underlying crime here. You know, when we talk about the Russian influence and collusion, there's not any evidence I've seen of collusion," Turley said on Morning Joe today.
The Firing of Comey Was Certainly Justified
Unless you think it makes political and constitutional sense to have an FBI director holding open forever an investigation of his boss with no factual basis, you might understand how ridiculous Comey’s refusal to publicly detail his reasons for so doing. My guess: it’s his arrogation of power and his continuing pattern of posing as an above-it-all public official while engaged in the most partisan pro-Democrat actions.
Apart from his botched handling of the Clinton investigation, here are some examples right now of his blindness to his own flaws:
In 2015, he appointed E.W. Priestap to his Counterintelligence Division. Priestap’s wife, a former FBI agent, contributed $5,000 to Hillary’s 2008 campaign and serves as a campaign consultant. Priestap is not the only FBI official closely linked to the Clintons. Andrew McCabe, Comey’s second in command, also has close ties to the Clintons. His wife received almost half a million dollars from one of Hillary’s closest associates and pals.
Mr. McAuliffe and other state party leaders recruited Dr. McCabe to run, according to party officials. She lost the election to incumbent Republican Dick Black.
McCabe failed to disclose those contributions in financial disclosure forms as required by law and he’s still there.
But there is much more than the misjudgment of allowing these people to head the investigation, which has run on for months with an ocean of leaks and no evidence.
In this same March 20th hearing Comey stated there was an investigation into intelligence leaks to the media. However, on May 8th the source of the reports that were eventually leaked to the media, acting AG Sally Yates, said she was never questioned by the FBI.
In the segment of the questioning below Rep. Stefanik begins by asking Director Comey what are the typical protocols, broad standards and procedures for notifying the Director of National Intelligence, the White House and senior congressional leadership (aka the intelligence Gang of Eight), when the FBI has opened a counter-intelligence investigation.[snip]
Director Comey intentionally obfuscates knowledge of the question from Rep Stefanik; using parseltongue verbiage to get himself away from the sunlit timeline.
The counter-intel investigation, by his own admission, began in July 2016. Congress was not notified until March 2017. That’s an eight-month period – Obviously obfuscating the quarterly claim moments earlier.
The uncomfortable aspect to this line of inquiry is Comey’s transparent knowledge of the politicized Office of the DNI James Clapper by President Obama. Clapper was used rather extensively by the Obama Administration as an intelligence shield, a firewall or useful idiot, on several occasions.
Anyone who followed the Obama White House intel policy outcomes will have a lengthy frame of reference for DNI Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan as the two primary political operatives. Clapper lied to congress about collection of metadata. Brennan also admitted investigating, and spying on, the Senate Intelligence Committee as they held oversight responsibility for the CIA itself.
The first and second questions from Stefanik were clear. Comey’s understanding of the questions was clear. However, Comey directly evaded truthful response to the second question. When you watch the video, you can see Comey quickly connecting the dots on where this inquiry was going.
There is only one reasonable explanation for FBI Director James Comey to be launching a counter-intel investigation in July 2016, notifying the White House and Clapper, and keeping it under wraps from congress. Comey was a participant in the intelligence gathering for political purposes -- wittingly, or unwittingly.
At the NY Post, Michael Goodwin writes the clearest, most readable account of why Comey had to go.
Comey’s power-grabbing arrogance is why I called him “J. Edgar Comey” two months ago. His willingness to play politics, while insisting he was above it all, smacked of Washington at its worst. He was the keeper of secrets, until they served his purpose.
The president didn’t have just one good reason to act. He had a choice among many.
The one he cited, Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private server, is rich with irony, given its prominence in the campaign. And the irony doesn’t stop, with Democrats who not so long ago were furious with Comey over the Clinton probe rushing out condemnations of Trump for firing him.
Comey’s refusal to accept the department’s conclusion that he made major mistakes are reasonable grounds for dismissal of any employee in any circumstance, not least one who enjoys self-aggrandizing displays of independence.
It is understandable that his bosses, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his recently confirmed deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, lost confidence in Comey. They pushed for his ouster, and the president agreed.
Yet Comey could have been fired for other aspects of the Clinton probe. The failure to empanel a grand jury, the willingness to destroy evidence as part of immunity agreements, the absurd claim that no reasonable prosecutor would take the case -- each action and assertion suggested a less-than-thorough probe designed to please his Democratic bosses.
Then there are the leaks of investigations that amounted to a flood of illegal disclosures about the Trump administration. Virtually everything we know about whether anyone in the Trump campaign colluded with Russian meddling in the election comes through leaks.
The names of those supposedly being investigated -- Gen. Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page -- all were made public through leaks. The fact that Sessions himself was wrong to tell the Senate he had not met with the Russian ambassador -- we know that because of leaks to the Washington Post.
We know a computer server for Trump Tower was communicating with a Russian bank -- because of leaks. Not incidentally, Hillary Clinton jumped on those leaks to insist Trump was guilty of collusion.
Only later did we learn -- through leaks–that the FBI determined the server was sending spam.
Yet Comey adamantly insisted to congress that he could not even confirm that he was investigating any or all of these leaks – and that was that.
Kimberley Strassel makes mincemeat of Comey’s claim that he had to act as both investigator and prosecutor because his ostensible boss, then-attorney general Loretta Lynch, had compromised herself with the tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton during the investigation:
Which leads us to Mr. Comey’s most recent and obvious conflict of all -- likely a primary reason he was fired: the leaks investigation (or rather non-investigation). So far the only crime that has come to light from this Russia probe is the rampant and felonious leaking of classified information to the press. Mr. Trump and the GOP rightly see this as a major risk to national security. While the National Security Agency has been cooperating with the House Intelligence Committee and allowing lawmakers to review documents that might show the source of the leaks, Mr. Comey’s FBI has resolutely refused to do the same.
Why? The press reports that the FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor Carter Page. It’s still unclear exactly under what circumstances the government was listening in on former Trump adviser Mike Flynn and the Russian ambassador, but the FBI was likely involved there, too. Meaning Mr. Comey’s agency is a prime possible source of the leaks.
In last week’s Senate hearing, Chairman Chuck Grassley pointed out the obvious: The entire top leadership of the FBI is suspect. “So how,” Mr. Grassley asked, “can the Justice Department guarantee the integrity of the investigations without designating an agency, other than the FBI, to gather the facts and eliminate senior FBI officials as suspects?” Mr. Comey didn’t provide much of an answer.
All this -- the Russia probe, the unmasking, the leaks, the fraught question of whether the government was inappropriately monitoring campaigns, the allegations of interference in a presidential campaign -- is wrapped together, with Mr. Comey at the center. The White House and House Republicans couldn’t have faith that the FBI would be an honest broker of the truth. Mr. Comey should have realized this, recused himself from ongoing probes, and set up a process to restore trust. He didn’t. So the White House did it for him.
This is Like Watergate, Only With Respect to FBI Leaks, Not Presidential Wrongdoing
The press keeps referring to this as a second Watergate, doubling down on its ignorance and counting on that of the public.
Contrary to the widespread fiction that Woodward and Bernstein revealed Nixon’s wrongdoing through determined slogging and some assistance from an unnamed “Deep Throat”, they got the story from a disgruntled second in command at the FBI, Mark Felt, who handed it to them on a silver platter, instead of honorably turning over what he knew to a grand jury.
In fact, during the 1976 grand jury investigation of Felt's own "black bag" operation, Assistant Attorney General Stanley Pottinger had learned that Felt was Deep Throat but the secrecy of grand jury proceedings prevented him from disclosing that to anyone.
His reason? Probably for appointing someone else, not him, to the directorship of the FBI.
In Felt's case, it is hard to imagine a more monstrous betrayal than his. He reviewed every FBI report on the Watergate investigation and gave it to the reporters almost as soon as it hit his desk. One can only imagine the chaos and paranoia that action caused and how it impacted everything the FBI was working on.
So if this is Watergate, it’s not because this president is trying to cover up any wrongdoing on his part, but rather Comey and others at the FBI are trying to cover up theirs, rather like Mark Felt. The drive to arrogate power to one’s self is a feature of Washington politics, and hardly unknown to the top ranks of the FBI.
The Call from Some Quarters for a Special Prosecutor is Nonsensical
With the lapse of the Independent Prosecutor Statute, the only remaining way to have a special prosecutor is for the attorney general or his designee to appoint one. And only that person can discipline or remove him from office, and can do so only under regulations promulgated by Attorney General Janet Reno, regulations that lack an underlying statutory basis. The person appointed special prosecutor is a prosecutor, not someone designated to expose wrongdoing, and so if he finds some but it is not prosecutable, we’ll never know about it. In other words, it would result in burying information. Since the charges after extensive investigation have obviously proved fruitless, the appointment of a special prosecutor would likely only serve to keep the half-cocked notions of collusion and interference alive.
Writing earlier on the question of appointing a special prosecutor to review the Clinton emails, Andrew McCarthy wisely batted that off. The Constitution has a single means of dealing with official criminality: impeachment.
The aim of people like Senator Durbin that call for such an appointment is to keep the game going: Announce an investigation is ongoing, leak information which may well be false -- and then decline to testify about matters because they are “still under investigation’” If the special prosecutor finds nothing, the conspiracy claims will continue. If he goes off the rails, as Patrick Fitzgerald surely did, and is removed, it will still keep going.
As we say in poker, “Game’s up -- if you’ve got ’em, show ‘em.'