The Never-ending Hunt for a Trump Crime

The news that federal investigators searched and seized electronic devices from the apartment and office of Rudy Giuliani, a Trump lawyer, raises so many questions and involves so much missing information that even someone as skilled a mystery writer as Patricia Cornwell might have difficulty unraveling the story. I’m not that person, unfortunately, but let me try to make some sense out of this crime story.

Background

President Biden’s son, Hunter, had a lucrative position with a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, and it raised suspicions that this created a conflict of interest respecting U.S. policy toward Ukraine. Suspicions about improper influence upon the Bidens by certain Ukrainian officials were heightened when Joe Biden publicly bragged that he was effective when he threatened to cut off aid to Ukraine unless the prosecutor investigating Burisma was fired. Although the FBI received Hunter’s laptop with relevant evidence, to my knowledge the FBI declined to examine it.  In the course of his representation of Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani traveled to Ukraine  in December 2019, accompanied by a team from One America News.  OAN produced a documentary of the trip in which it publicized the relationship between Hunter and Burisma and Joe Biden’s publicly admitted action to cover this up by getting the prosecutor fired. 

Anonymous Sources Reveal Baseless Warnings to Giuliani and Senator Ron Johnson

The first account I read was in the Washington Post, where Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, and Tom Hamburger clearly megaphoned  the FBI story in an account which suggests we are seeing the phony baloney Russian Collusion tale being repeated with the same sort of willing collusion by the press, a role long played by Nakashima. 

According to this account “several current and former U.S. officials” said that FBI counterintelligence agents warned Giuliani and OAN that they were being “manipulated by the Russian government to promote its interests and that [Giuliani] appears to have brazenly disregarded such fears.”

Update: The Washington Post, New York Times, and NBC News have all issued retractions for their reporting that Giuliani was cautioned.

Halt! If the revelation had to be made anonymously “because the matter remains highly sensitive,” weren’t these people sharing this information in violation of their obligations and if so, weren’t they inherently untrustworthy? Moreover, since when do the FBI’s counterintelligence operatives determine who U.S. citizens and the press can interview? Giuliani, OAN, and Senator Ron Johnson were certainly entitled to make their own assessment of the credibility of those they interviewed and the information they provided. They were certainly entitled to probe the Ukraine connection, CI warnings notwithstanding, otherwise, as is obvious, simply warning people off on the grounds of purported national security concerns would give these agents an unfettered right to censor news and legitimate investigations. A strange claim after the Russian Collusion fiasco, in which we learned how FBI agents themselves, with the aid of foreign operators, manipulated baseless charges against Donald Trump.

Nor was there much behind the warning, according to Senator Johnson, who also received such a briefing as chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee who was also investigating the Hunter Biden-Burisma link. He told the Post reporters that there was “no substance” to the warning he received.

“I asked the briefers what specific evidence they had regarding the warning, and they could not provide me anything other than the generalized warning . Without specific information, I felt the briefing was completely useless and unnecessary[snip]. Because there was no substance to the briefing, and because it followed the production and leaking of a false intelligence product by Democrat leaders, I suspected that the briefing was being given to be used at some future date for the purpose that it is now being used: to offer the biased media an opportunity to falsely accuse me of being a tool of Russia despite warnings.

 Nothing in the Post’s account provides factual evidence -- it is a self-serving leak by untrustworthy (because of the leak) officials.

The Search of Giuliani’s Home and Apartment

Ostensibly the search for electronic devices in Giuliani's possession was for evidence of a violation of  the Foreign Agent Registration Act. Like the claim that they have a right to preclude investigation by private citizens, Congress, and the press on their vague warnings, the assertion that Giuliani could have been acting as an agent of Ukraine seems preposterous. Guiliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello, said that they sought communications between him and reporter John Solomon .

Mr. Costello in an interview called the search warrant “legal thuggery.” He said that in recent years he had offered to answer investigators’ questions as long as they agreed to say what area they were looking at ahead of time. He said they declined the offer. “It’s like I’m talking to a wall,” he said.

Mr. Giuliani has denied ever serving as a lobbyist or agent of a foreign government. [snip] In a statement posted late Wednesday night on the website for Mr. Giuliani’s radio show, Mr. Costello said the search warrants “involve only one indication of an alleged incident of failure to register as a foreign agent,” but didn’t specify the incident. Mr. Costello’s statement also accused the Justice Department of targeting supporters of Donald Trump while employing a double standard for “high-level Democrats whose blatant crimes are ignored.”

Costello didn’t name names, but the news that John F. Kerry revealed highly classified information to Iranian officials about Israeli strikes in Syria comes to mind.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act, the ostensible basis for the investigation, criminalizes in its present form people who meet this test and fail to register they are acting as agents of:

people and organizations that are under control of

  • a foreign government, or
  • of organizations or of persons outside of the United States ("foreign principal"),
  • if they act "at the order, request, or under the direction or control" (i.e. as "agents")
    • of this principal or
    • of persons who are "controlled or subsidized in major part" by this principal

Have we ever learned on whose direction Christopher Steele actually prepared his dossier, a pack of lies surely confected by Russian intelligence?

Scott Johnson at Powerline blog  is as skeptical as I am about the Giuliani warrants. He says FARA is a farce and the Giuliani position in this fandango remains a mystery:

Yesterday’s [New York]Times story vaguely reported that the criminal investigation involves Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine. Today’s Times story is ambiguous about Giuliani’s status: “The warrants do not accuse Mr. Giuliani of wrongdoing, but they underscore his legal peril: They indicate a judge has found that investigators have probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that the search would turn up evidence of that crime.”

So is Giuliani a target, a subject, or a witness in the investigation?

(Pursuant to a search warrant, federal agents also seized Victoria Toensing’s phone. She had worked with Giuliani seeking an investigation into Ukrainian influence on Joe Biden and she, like Giuliani, said she’d have happily turned over any relevant documents had they simply asked. According to Giuliani, the only thing the federal agents were offered which they refused to take was Giuliani's copy of the material in Hunter Biden's laptop.)

Sloppy, sloppy work here by the FBI and the press. And the Washington Post was not alone. All the usual suspects hopped aboard. CNN chose Andrew McCabe, disgraced for his role in the Russian Collusion fable (lying about his authorization of leaks to the media), to comment on the matter. Was he one of the Post’s sources? It’s certainly possible. He’s knows the drill, having played this game before.

Time magazine also weighed in and got a slap back from Don Surber:

"The witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described lengthy interviews with investigators in Europe, Manhattan and Washington, starting in the fall of 2019 and continuing through February. The calls and meetings with investigators grew more frequent and intense after Joe Biden’s victory in last fall’s presidential election, says one of the witnesses. Two of the witnesses say they were working with Giuliani while cooperating with federal investigators."

Nice job, Time.

Now name the cop who shot and killed an unarmed Ashli Babbitt.

The NY Times and Washington Post have since issued corrections which undercut the entire premise of the raid on Giuliani.

The retraction and correction by the Post:

“Correction: An earlier version of this story, published Thursday, incorrectly reported that One America News was warned by the FBI that it was the target of a Russian influence operation. That version also said the FBI had provided a similar warning to Rudolph W. Giuliani, which he has since disputed. This version has been corrected to remove assertions that OAN and Giuliani received the warnings.”

New York Times correction and retraction:

“Correction: May 1, 2021

An earlier version of this article misstated whether Rudolph W. Giuliani received a formal warning from the F.B.I. about Russian disinformation. Mr. Giuliani did not receive such a so-called defensive briefing.”

How Long Has Spying on Giuliani Been Going On

More outrageous than the search and seizure was the revelation by Giuliani that in late 2019 the Department of Justice “covertly obtained access to my iCloud and never notified me, They invaded the attorney client relationship as we were defending against the phony impeachment. These prosecutors violated the laws, not me.”

2019? The attorney general then was William Barr. Did he authorize such a travesty -- violating the attorney-client privileged communications between the president and his lawyer? That seems hard to believe. A very serious breach  of the fundamental rights of any defendant. Alan Dershowitz agreed to help and explains how serious a breach the invasion of Giuliani’s iCloud is.

From Newsweek:

This is a very serious breach of privacy, and I agreed to help advise him on this issue," Dershowitz later confirmed to Newsweek. Dershowitz said search warrants are executed only when you have reason to believe that the lawyer would destroy evidence," adding that lawyers, doctors, priests and other individuals with privileged information have protections under the Fourth Amendment.

Was this an off-the-book operation by rogue agents? I mean, if these people feel free to constantly leak to the press sensitive material, how far off the reservation have FBI agents gone? Or was this shoved under the carpet as a national security matter and the DNI was responsible and kept Barr in the dark? A mystery of significant importance. Did they have a FISA warrant to do this? If so, ever more reason to scrap this monstrosity.

If you are not yet concerned about the FBI’s counterintelligence operations, its incompetency and KGB-type operations, you just aren’t paying attention.

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