This past week, the Trump administration has been doing a Snoopy dance of joy over the apparent findings of the Mueller report: there will be no further indictments, and there was no finding of criminal conspiracy by members of the Trump campaign or obstruction of justice by Trump beyond a reasonable doubt.
Trump loyalists have now begun to demand that Democrats “move on” and end their current plans to investigate the Trump campaign and administration over Russia connections and a variety of other matters, such as their child separation policy, cozy connections with lobbyists, acceptance of foreign donations for the inauguration, potential fraud by the Trump Foundation, and money laundering by the Trump real estate company.
But they’ve also gone further than that. While they’ve demanded that Democrats “stand down,” they themselves have argued that we should now ramp up investigations of the “other side,” that now is the time to do a deep dive into how the Mueller investigation began, claiming that “this can never again happen to an American president.”
Unfortunately for them, that just might prove to be the biggest mistake they’ve made in two years.
Attorney General William Barr’s summary of the Mueller report does not exonerate Trump of collusion; it simply failed to find sufficient grounds for a criminal case against him.
Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election. But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.
The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
In making this determination, we noted that the Special Counsel recognized that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,” and that, while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction. Generally speaking, to obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding.
In cataloguing the President’s actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent, each of which, under the Department’s principles of federal prosecution guiding charging decisions, would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an obstruction-of justice offense.
James Comey has said Mueller’s decision to allow Trump’s political appointee to decide on obstruction is “really confusing.” This is a fair point.
It’s a good question as to why Mueller couldn’t come to a conclusion one way or another on obstruction, why he didn’t subpoena Trump for a face-to-face interview, and why he didn’t allow the grand jury itself to vote on indictment for Trump rather than handing that question over to Trump’s handpicked new AG, who is specifically on record for opposing obstruction charges against Trump.
For perspective, Monica Lewinsky this week tweeted “If. Fucking. Only.” Clinton’s AG Janet Reno had been allowed to get an advance copy of the Starr report and then write her own opinion on the case before it was released to Congress and the public. Yes, “if only.”
In point of fact Ken Starr claimed Clinton should have been impeached for obstruction of justice and witness tampering based on conversations he had with his staff about Lewinsky, even when those persons , including his assistant and lawyers, were not public figures and weren’t on the witness list for any specific proceeding at the time.
But then in Trump’s case, Barr claimed is it was okay for him to tell James Comey to “let Flynn go,” because there supposedly wasn’t any pending proceeding—except that’s not true. The Department of Justice was already investigating Flynn and he should have known that, because Flynn’s lawyers had told Vice President Mike Pence about it during the transition.
WASHINGTON — Michael T. Flynn told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.
Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies.
Also, Barr’s short summary doesn’t note any of the following facts, as I’ve noted previously.
Russian assistance came when Papadopoulos was told about the Russian having Hillary emails (technically from the DNC and John Podesta’s accounts) after he was personally tasked by Trump to reach out to the Russians and told by Sessions to “find out all that he could” about them as he tried to setup a meeting between himself and Putin.
Jeff Sessions tabled that meeting, but Paul Manafort continued to reach out with contacts to the Russians by deciding to send “Someone lower level, to not send a signal.” The plan was apparently to send Papadopoulos again, but in the meanwhile Carter Page went to Russia and met various government officials and was reportedly also told about the Hillary emails.
Neither Papadopoulos or Page reported what they were told to the FBI.
Meanwhile MIchael Cohen and Felix Sater were secretly continuing the Moscow Tower project after falsely claiming that their attempts to reach out to Dimitry Peskov hadn’t generated a response, but that was a lie. They also both worked with a member of the Ukrainian Parliament to craft a “peace deal” with Russia which would have given them complete control of Crimea and potentially ended the sanctions which were preventing the Tower project from going forward.
Don Jr. was contacted by the Agalarovs, their business partners from a previous failed Moscow Tower project and also their Miss Universe Moscow project about “dirt on Hillary” and setup a meeting with former Russian government Lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya who attempted to trade information about Bill Browder giving donations to the DNC — even though those are legal since he’s a American who was an investor in Russia — in exchange for loosening of Magnitsky Act sanctions which Jr. agreed to look at even though he didn’t think the “dirt” was worth anything. Junior also met with Alexander Torshin who was apparently the “handler” for Russian spy Marina Butina.
Manafort was trying to work out financial issues with his former benefactor Oleg Deripaska by offering him a personal briefing on the Trump campaign, and also gave internal polling information to a set of Ukrainian Oligarch all through his own Russian contact and business partner Konstantin Kilimnick who just happens to have links to the Russian Military Intelligence (GRU).
At some point after Julian Assange stated that he now had copies of the emails someone in the Trump campaign [likely Manafort via Rick Gates] reached out to Roger Stone asking if he could get more information about what Assange had. Stone in additional to sending DM messages with Guccifer 2.0 and with Wikileaks ultimately reached out to Jerome Corsi, who reached Ted Malloch who had a contact within RT, and the same day that RT interviewed Assange, Corsi reported back to him.
Unfortunately by that point Manafort had left the Trump campaign, so Stone had to go through a Breitbart editor to reach Steve Bannon who was initially uninterested, but ultimately took Stone’s email which reported that Assange was going to drop daily batches of emails related to the Clinton Foundation.
Then the day that the Hollywood Access tape was released someone leaked that information to Stone and he frantically attempted to reach Corsi in order to pass a message to Assange that he should begin releases his next set of emails that day— ultimately the first of the Podesta emails was released just 1 hour after the WaPo published the Hollywood Access video.
During the transition Kushner met with Russia banker Sergei Gorkov but not about either business or goverment matters. [So why were they talking again?]
Multiple Russians reached out and helped the Trump campaign — while the Trump campaign accepted that help, welcomed that help and even solicited some of that help — but there currently isn’t a law against that on the books. That’s apparently absolutely legal, it’s just wrong as hell. It probably shouldn’t be legal.
Papadopoulos was prosecuted for lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians. Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort lied to the FBI about his communications with GRU asset Konstantin Kilimnick. Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen was prosecuted for lying to Congress about his contacts with Dmitry Peskov about the Moscow Tower project, and former Trump adviser Roger Stone is being prosecuted for lying to Congress about his contacts with the Trump campaign, GRU asset Guccifer 2.0, and Julian Assange through intermediaries Corsi and Malloch. Arguably, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions likely lied to the Senate when he denied that any Trump surrogate had been in contact with the Russians when he was specifically told about Papadopoulos, and he himself met with Russian Ambassador Kislyak at least three separate times during the campaign.
Why exactly did all these people lie under oath about their contacts with Russians, if it wasn’t essentially to maintain a cover-up?
If the argument is that Trump didn’t have any direct contact with Russians who were directly involved in the hacking and trolling efforts, that seems to be basically true, except for his personal involvement in sending Papadopoulos to Russia. And despite Barr’s claims that both Papadopoulos and Stone did have contact with people linked to the hacks, Mifsud and Guccifer 2.0 respectively, they both lied about it under oath.
All of this does look exactly like collusion and coordination, but the fact that it may not be conclusive enough for a conviction isn’t an “exoneration.” It’s more like John Gotti getting off on a charge that he was probably guilty of based on insufficient evidence.
Members of the GOP and Fox News have decided to ignore all this and have practically been falling all over themselves to attack Democrats over William Barr’s principal conclusions about the Mueller report, claiming the Russia probe should never have even happened.
They’ve had a very hard time understanding the meaning of “exonerated.” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow claimed Trump was “exonerated” and Ari Melber called BS on that, since Mueller specifically says he’s not exonerated.
On Monday night, that role fell to Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow on MSNBC’s “The Beat” with Ari Melber. The MSNBC host grilled Sekulow on Trump allies’ dubious claim that Trump was fully exonerated by special counsel Robert Mueller.
“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him. So what does non-exonerate mean to you?” Melber asked Sekulow.
“They didn’t make a determination. That’s all it means,” Sekulow said. “They did not find that the President committed a crime.”
Technically, that is untrue. They didn’t find that he didn’t commit a crime: they determined that they didn’t have sufficient evidence of that crime beyond a reasonable doubt, which is entirely different.
Still, Fox & Friends have pushed Trump to target John Brennan for revenge following the Mueller probe. However, Brennan’s criticism of Trump was largely based on his behavior in Helsinki, not on the Mueller investigation. Rep. Mo Brooks quoted from Mein Kampf to accuse Democrats of using “Big Lie” tactics. However in his analogy, he and the GOP would be Hitler and Dems would be the Jews he accused of perpetrating lies. And on Hannity, Trump blasted NBC for cutting the part of his Lester Holt interview where he said he expected firing Comey would cause the Russia probe to go longer. And it did—so that’s a fair point.
Graham said he was planning on speaking to Barr at noon Monday, and that he would ask Barr to appoint a second special counsel. Graham wants a special counsel to investigate how the FBI obtained surveillance warrants for ex-Trump advisor Carter Page and whether it made inappropriate political decisions based on a dossier indirectly financed by the Clinton campaign.
“What makes no sense to me is all of the abuse by the Department of Justice and the FBI — the unprofessional conduct, the shady behavior — nobody seems to thinks that’s much important,” Graham “Well, that’s going to change I hope.”
There is no need for a special prosecutor since Barack Obama isn’t president anymore, Loretta Lynch isn’t attorney general, James Comey isn’t FBI director, and none of them nor Rod Rosenstein, who authorized this warrant, were members of the Obama campaign. That stands in contract to former Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who had to be recused from overseeing the investigationfor exactly that reason. Also, the fact is that the Department of Justice Inspector General has already been looking into the issue of the Carter Page warrant for more than a year.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz confirmed Thursday his office is still investigating possible abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by the DOJ and FBI in their investigation into President Trump and associates of his 2016 campaign.
The revelation came during a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., when Horowitz was asked to divulge his biggest projects.
“We have a FISA-related review that people might have heard about that the deputy attorney general asked us to take a look at. But I’m not going to dwell on that,” he said at the event alongside three other inspectors general hosted by the Atlantic Council.
The details of the FISA warrant, with redactions, have already been released and it’s clear that the claim that the court wasn’t informed about the involvement of the DNC, Fusion GPS, or Christopher Steele in requesting the warrant is quite literally false. That issue was covered in this section of the FISA warrant.
U.S-based law firm [Perkins Coie] had hired the identified U.S. person [Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS] to conduct research regardig Candidate #1’s [Trump] ties to Russia (the identified U.S. person [Simpson] hired Source #1 [Christopher Steele] to conduct this research. The identified U.S. person [Simpson] never advised Source #1 [Steele] as to the motivation behind the research ito Candidates #1’s ties to Russia. The FBI speculates that the U.S. person was likely looking for informatio that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s [Trump’s] campaign.
The issue of Simpson’s intention to discredit Trump’s campaign was specifically addressed, but it was also noted that Christopher Steele wasn’t even aware of this. It further notes that Steele had been a credible source previously; he had been instrumental in the FIFA corruption scandal and the prosecution of a FIFA official who had accepted bribes from Russians to hold the World Cup in Moscow. That official actually lived in Trump Tower.
The FBI investigation into Russia, which was code-named Crossfire Hurricane, began on June 16, 2016 after Alexander Downer, the Australian ambassador to England, reported a conversation he’d previously had with Trump aide George Papadopoulos at a Kensington wine bar about Russia having copies of Hillary’s [actually, the DNC’s] emails.
WASHINGTON — During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.
About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.
Downer’s report to the FBI was made four days before Christopher Steele even wrote his first memo on Trump on June 20, and again his conversation with Papadopoulos had occurred in May, which was a month before WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange revealed that he had possesion of DNC emails on June 12. The first release of DNC materials by Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks had been on the 16th, the same day Downer went to the FBI because that’s when he realized that Papadopoulos’ previous claims were accurate.
You know who didn’t go to the FBI until they knocked on his door? George Papadopoulos.
Telling the FBI when they come to your house to ask you questions is different than volunteering it,” he said. “You did not go to the FBI or local police or anybody with the information that someone came to you with information that the Russians had Hillary Clinton’s emails, correct?”
Papadopoulos admitted this was the case, although he maintained that he deserved credit for telling the FBI about it at all.“You didn’t notify them until they came and knocked on your door!” Berman shot back.
But it’s worse than that. Because of Downer, the FBI already knew his contacts with Prof. Mifsud, who had told him about the “Hillary dirt” and his contacts with other Russians like Sergei Millian, who had agreed to setup a one-on-one meeting between Trump and Putin. But when they showed up, Papadopoulos lied to them about it. He didn’t just do it once, he did it twice—and as a result ,the FBI lost their chance to interview Mifsud, who had since disappeared.
Prosecutors argued that Mr. Papadopoulos’s repeated lies during a January 2017 interview with investigators hampered the Russia investigation at a critical moment. In part because Mr. Papadopoulos misled the authorities, prosecutors said in court papers, they failed to arrest a London-based professor — suspected of being a Russian operative — before he left the United States in February 2017, never to return.
“I wanted to distance myself as much as possible — and Trump himself and the campaign — from what was probably an illegal action or dangerous information,” he said. He told the judge that he was blinded by personal ambition and the thrill of being part of Mr. Trump’s electoral victory. Just before his F.B.I. interview, he had attended an inauguration event; just after, he promoted his campaign work as a reason he should be hired by the Energy Department
He was also offered a job to work for both Trump and Russia simultaneously by Milian who has been named as a possible source for the Moscow “pee tape” story.
In a major new Washington Post report, it’s revealed that Papadopulos met with a man named Sergei Millian, who is described as the “unwitting” source for former British spy Christopher Steele’s claims about Trump and Russian prostitutes.After the 2016 election, the two men dined at a Washington, D.C.-based restaurant called the Russia House, which is regularly frequented by Russian diplomats. The dinner was the culmination of an outreach campaign by the Belarus-born Millian in which he offered Papadopoulos “a lucrative consulting contract to work simultaneously for Trump and an unidentified Russian, which Papadopoulos said he rebuffed.”
… as the Hill reports, the Senate Majority Leader blocked a resolution calling for the report to be publicly released. This is the second time McConnell has moved to block such a resolution, even though the resolution was expected to pass by a wide margin.
In defense of blocking the resolution, McConnell stated that he ”supported the proposition that [Mueller’s] report ought to be released to the greatest extent possible, consistent with the law”—language that both Barr and McConnell have used to bolster the excuse that the report can’t be released with information about people who were not indicted. That’s a standard that was not followed for either Watergate or the Whitewater investigations.Also in his statement, McConnell was adamant that the complete Mueller report continue to be withheld because it would be wrong to release something “when we think it may be politically advantageous to one side or the other.” Which is the justification for writing another “summary” rather than releasing the report.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) announced Thursday his intention to submit criminal referrals against the Justice Department and FBI for “false claims” about the Russia investigation.
He told Fox News Business’ Maria Bartiromo that he has a “major concern” that “the FBI-DOJ falsely claimed this investigation did not begin until late July. We now know for certain that is not true.”
“We are prepared now to at least submit our first criminal referral we think will grab everybody that we need to grab to make sure that there is a proper investigation,” or “at least our referral over to DOJ,” he added.
As we describe Chapter Five of our report, we found that Strzok was not the sole decisionmaker for any of the specific Midyear investigative decisions we examined in that chapter. We further found evidence that in some instances Strzok and Page advocated for more aggressive investigative measures in the Midyear investigation, such as the use of grand jury subpoenas and search warrants to obtain evidence.[…]
Strzok told the OIG that he did not take any steps to try to affect the outcome of the presidential election, in either the Midyear investigation or the Russia investigation. Strzok stated that had he—or the FBI in general — actually wanted to prevent Trump from being elected, they would not have maintained the confidentiality of the investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and members of the Trump campaign in the months before the election.Page similarly stated that, although she could not speak to what Strzok meant by that text message, the FBI’s decision to keep the Russia investigation confidential before the election shows that they did not take steps to impact the outcome of the election.There were clearly tensions and disagreements in a number of important areas between Midyear agents and prosecutors. However, we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative decisions we reviewed in Chapter Five, or that the justifications offered for these decisions were pretextual.Nonetheless, these messages cast a cloud over the FBI’s handling of the Midyear investigation and the investigation’s credibility. But our review did not find evidence to connect the political views expressed in these messages to the specific investigative decisions that we reviewed; rather, consistent with the analytic approach described above, we found that these specific decisions were the result of discretionary judgments made during the course of an investigation by the Midyear agents and prosecutors and that these judgment calls were not unreasonable.
Baker told the OIG that “there were multiple audiences” for the criticism of former Secretary Clinton in Comey’s statement. He recounted hearing that FBI employees not involved in the Midyear investigation hated former Secretary Clinton and had made comments such as, “[Y]ou guys are finally going to get that bitch,” and, “[W]e’re rooting for you.” Baker stated, “And if we’re not going to get her on these facts and circumstances, then we’d better explain that now.” Related to this idea, notes taken by Strzok at a May 12, 2016 meeting involving the Midyear team state, “Messaging thoughts: Workforce Qs: (1) If I did this, I’d be prosecuted; (2) Petraeus, Berger, etc. were charged; (3) Overwhelming conservative outlook.”
In response, Adam Schiff has correctly pointed out that Mueller didn’t make any ruling on “collusion.”
But it’s obvious that that they colluded because, for example, Don Jr. agreed to meet with a Russian government representative who promised to provide “dirt on Hillary,” and brought both Manafort and Kushner with him to the meeting. They didn’t refuse the meeting because it was inappropriate and it could have been illegal to accept anything of value from a foreign nation, and they also didn’t inform the FBI of the meeting, even after they were briefed by the FBI to notify them about any potential contacts with foreign nationals.
Fox News Legal analyst Andrew Napolitano has said that the Meuller report is 700 pages, and contains evidence of conspiracy.
“We saw on Sunday a four-page summary of a 700-page report,” Napolitano explained. “The 700-page report is a summary of two million pages of documents, of raw evidence.”The analyst went on to insist that the report “undoubtedly” details “some evidence of a conspiracy and some evidence of obstruction” by President Donald Trump.“In the 700-page summary of the two million pages of raw evidence, there is undoubtedly some evidence of a conspiracy and some evidence of obstruction of justice, just not enough evidence — I’m thinking the way I believe Congressman [Adam] Schiff is thinking — according to Attorney General Barr, not enough evidence to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard,” Napolitano said.
“There is something there,” he added.
Yes, of course, there’s something in there—and the GOP really doesn’t want it made public. They’d rather rehash the Clinton investigation, rehash the start of the Russia investigation, and try to bully Democrats into walking away from all of Trump’s malfeasance and mendacity.
The further the Republicans dig into the DOJ and FBI, the more pyrite they’re likely to find. But the same is far less likely once the full Mueller report is released—and the real digging begins.