The Mueller Dogs Bark, but the Caravan Moves On
A. The Latest Indictments
Shortly after Rod Rosenstein announced the latest series of indictments against Russians largely for posts on social media, the stock market rose and hit its highest weekly gain since 2013. And for good reason – the indictments are idiotic. They would never have been issued by a prosecutor, only a special counsel looking as if he's doing something as his case against his big catch – General Michael Flynn – seems to become less and less certain to lead to conviction.
But when all the details are added up a much murkier picture emerges. First, the effort apparently began taking shape as early as May 2014 (and perhaps as early as 2013), an entire year before Trump became a candidate. Then, as they got underway during the primary season, the indictment says (p. 17) that "They engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump," and instructions to their online "specialists" to "use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump – we support them)." It didn't take any kind of special intelligence to perceive that Sanders and Trump represented the two most disruptive candidates in the field. Just think of how the political establishments of both parties would have regarded a Sanders-Trump general election in 2016.
Third, the Russian operation organized and promoted numerous pro-Trump rallies, but also attempted to manipulate anti-Trump groups and organize anti-Trump events, especially after the election. On p. 23, for example: "At the same time, Defendants and their co-conspirators, through another ORGANIZATION-controlled group, organized a rally in New York called 'Trump is NOT my President' held on or about November 12, 2016. Similarly, Defendants and their co-conspirators organized a rally entitled 'Charlotte Against Trump' in Charlotte, North Carolina, held on or about November 19, 2016."
This is all classic disinformation and grassroots manipulation tradecraft going back to the Soviet era, when we know the Soviets worked diligently and spent lavishly to gin up anti-nuclear grassroots groups in the West, but also manipulated anti-Communist groups behind the Iron Curtain, the better to be able to sow chaos among its enemies.
So let's restate the likely explanations. Why did the Russians do this? Because they could. It was useful for them to discover how much they could infiltrate the political process in the U.S., and above all to sow chaos. Actually favoring a Trump victory over Hillary makes little sense on substance, because most of Trump's foreign policy positions – cheaper energy, expanded defense spending by us and NATO, more missile defense – are averse to Russian interests. But an election result that leaves chaos in its wake works perfectly well whether Hillary had won or Trump. In that sense, the Russian operation has been a sweeping success for them. Maybe our media ought to reflect that they are serving Russian interests very well with their rabid sensationalism of the "collusion" story.
Of course, the indictments are unlikely to result in anything, as the Russians are not going to extradite those charged, and we have no jurisdiction over those named. In any event, we do the same thing wherever we can. Just recently, then President Obama, using federal funds, worked to prevent Benjamin Netanyahu's re-election.
My online friend "daddy" posts, "I wonder if Putin is gleefully having his comrades combing thru that list of indictees to see if he can get a photogenic and talkative one to come over to the States and agree to a trial, in hopes of making this whole Keystone Cop's [sic] prosecution Team be seen as the total fools they are. I hope he sends one over who leaked dirt to Steele and Simpson, and who also was tied in to the Uranium 1 deal and met Mueller when he took Uranium samples to Russia for Hillary."
JimmyK echoes my disdain: "These indictments of the Russians is [sic] just theater – no way they would have happened but for the agitation of Hillary and the Dems trying to excuse her horrific candidacy. It reminds me of the arrest of the guy who made the video they tried to blame for Benghazi. Are you kidding me? Some 3rd rate technical violation normally wouldn't register on the FBI radar screen. What a waste of resources, only heightened by the failure on the Fla shooter."
And Janet asks: "Who spent more money ... the 13 Russian nogoodniks on FB & twitter or Robert Creamer hiring thugs to incite violence at Trump events?"
In any event, the indictments were so sloppily crafted that a number of the sites listed as pro-Trump in them were actually pro-Hillary.
It's hard to avoid taking note of the disparate FBI treatment of the winsome Anna Chapman and her gang of Russian spies, who got much closer to Hillary than these bloggers and a couple of agitators who landed briefly here ever got to Trump. They were just hustled out of the country.
Perhaps if Mueller really wanted to investigate improper interference with our elections, he should look in the mirror, for it was he who worked with Lois Lerner and the IRS to hamstring and target the Tea Party to Obama's benefit in the 2012 election.
Indeed, one might plausibly argue that releasing these ridiculous indictments on a Friday before a holiday to be twisted by headers in the usual mainstream media, which created so much chaos for the new administration, is part of a continuing Deep State resistance.
B. Obstruction of Justice
A remaining element in his open-ended fishing license is Mueller's seeking to find obstruction of justice in Trump's firing of Mueller's good friend James Comey, whose memos leaked in part to his friend Daniel Richman are still inexplicably being kept from congressional investigators.
If you read nothing else on the subject, read all of Andrew McCarthy's analysis, which space and copyright restrictions prevent me from reprinting in larger part. Beginning with an analysis of the email Susan Rice sent to herself hours after Trump was inaugurated, he draws a disturbing picture of the Deep State plotting to continue investigating the president, while keeping from him the knowledge of what they were doing, a plot in which Comey played a key part.
He begins by explaining that Susan Rice's email was not to memorialize what had occurred at the meeting among her, Obama, James Comey, Michael Rogers, John Brennan, and James Clapper, but rather to revise the record of the decision to keep from the president the knowledge that the Deep State was investigating him. The FISA warrant was running out, and they wanted to continue probing, even though the central figure was the new president.
That is what Rice's email is really about: not sharing with the incoming Trump administration classified information about the Trump-Russia investigation, such as the basis for seeking a FISA warrant on Carter Page.
The dilemma was that the Obama administration had placed "the incoming team" – in particular, President-elect Trump – under investigation. Remember, Obama's law-enforcement agencies believed the Steele dossier. No, the FBI had not been able to corroborate it; but, as former FBI director Comey told Congress, the bureau deemed its author, Christopher Steele, to be a reliable source. Steele, moreover, had collaborated on the project with Nellie Ohr, the wife of Bruce Ohr, Yates's top aide at the Justice Department[.] ...
So we arrive at the knotty question for Obama political and law-enforcement officials: How do we "engage with the incoming team" of Trump officials while also determining that "we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia"? How do we assure that an investigation of Trump can continue when Trump is about to take over the government?
What is the answer? Let's consider what happened the next day.
We've heard the story a million times: After President-elect Trump was briefed by agency leaders on the intelligence community's Russia report, Comey met privately with Trump to brief him on the Steele dossier.
But is that what happened? I don't think so. I believe Trump was briefed only on a sliver of the dossier.
Remember, the Obama administration presumption was: "We cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia." When we scrutinize Director Comey's carefully crafted Senate testimony from last June, and when we consider the panoply of what a full briefing on the Steele dossier would have entailed – the breadth of the Trump-Russia corruption allegations, the FISA warrant applications and their heavy reliance on the dossier, the fact that the dossier was a Clinton campaign project – it is manifest that Comey did not give Trump the full picture of what the dossier was and how it was being used by the FBI and the Justice Department. Certainly, President Trump was not informed to the same extent President Obama was.
This is why Comey assured Trump privately that he was not under investigation but refused Trump's request that he say so publicly.
In sum, he concludes:
It is getting close to two years with no apparent evidence of an actionable Trump-Russia conspiracy. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to ask: Is President Trump under investigation for collusion with the Kremlin? If not, shouldn't he and the country be told that?
And since counterintelligence investigations are conducted to inform the president – the constitutional officer responsible for national security against foreign threats – it is worth asking: What was the difference between what the FBI told the FISA court about the Trump-Russia investigation and what they told the president of the United States about it?
C. Warranted Suspicions of the Integrity and Skill of Our Intelligence Agencies
McCarthy's questioning is echoed in the requests – still pending on jurisdictional issues – by top congressional committee chairs Devin Nunes and Bob Goodlatte of the FISC to turn over the actual FISA requests, obviously because they question whether those they were given by the Department of Justice match what was filed with that court to permit the snooping. Did DOJ modify to hide from Congress the requests it made to the FISC "in order to hide from Congress the trail of a conspiracy against a presidential candidate and an incoming administration"?
All this on the very day we learn that the FBI dropped the ball, despite repeated warnings about the Parkland, Florida shooter – just as it had ignored warnings about the Tsarnaev brothers in the Boston massacre and the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen.
And the CIA is arguing to a skeptical judge that the Freedom of Information Act allows it to selectively release to "trusted" – i.e., favored – reporters classified information and withhold that same information from the public.
Deep State, indeed.