Trong Khiem Nguyen / Flickr robert mueller amp trump...
Trong Khiem Nguyen / Flickr

What IS a counterintelligence investigation?  How does it differ from a criminal investigation?  Why did Rosenstein give Mueller the authority to conduct such an investigation?

Here’s an interesting article over at Lawfareblog where Aditya Bamzai, an associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Law explores some of these questions.  Take note that this article is dated Friday, May 26, 2017, 9:51 AM.  Shortly after Rosenstein announced Mueller as the special counsel, some people were questioning why Rosenstein gave Mueller the authority to conduct a counterintelligence investigation.

Ever since Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a Special Counsel to investigate allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, commentators have raised questions about the investigation’s scope.

these regulations do not contemplate the delegation of a counterintelligence investigation to a Special Counsel; they focus on criminal investigations.  The two kinds of investigations are significantly different in scope and function and rely on different investigative tools.

The Order thus appears to contemplate that Mueller will conduct a “counterintelligence investigation” that may include an “assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”

As the FBI’s website notes, its Counterintelligence Program is “responsible for identifying and neutralizing ongoing national security threats from foreign intelligence services.”  The FBI is thus “the lead agency for exposing, preventing, and investigating intelligence activities on U.S. soil, and the Counterintelligence Division uses its full suite of investigative and intelligence capabilities to combat counterintelligence threats,” by (among other things) “[p]rotect[ing] the secrets of the U.S. Intelligence Community,” “[p]rotecting the nation’s critical assets,” and “[c]ountering the activities of foreign spies.”

a counterintelligence investigation may use tools distinct from a criminal investigation.  The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, for example, authorizes the government to conduct surveillance for “foreign intelligence” purposes where certain statutory requirements are met and “there is probable cause to believe that . . . the target of the electronic surveillance is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power.”

We are getting into twilight zone legal stuff here.  Shortly after Rosenstein handed the investigation over to Mueller, some were questioning why Mueller was conducting a counterintelligence investigation and whether he had the authority to do so.  There’s also the possibility that a counterintelligence investigation would be immune from interference from the Attorney General.

If you look at the authority and tools available to conduct a counterintelligence investigation, it’s pretty damn broad.  Which brings up the question of just how far was the FBI willing to go to find out if the one person in the country who has access to virtually EVERY secret in the country, was, in reality, a Russian agent?

Remember when Rosenstein “joked” about wearing a wire into the oval office?  He was fully aware of the counterintelligence investigation of Trump, so why would he joke about that?  Remember how Trump systematically got rid of the FBI’s top counterintelligence officials and the people around Comey?  How in the world would Trump know to do this?  This smells of a conspiracy in the White House.  And how about the meetings with Putin with no Americans to record them, and the telephone calls to Putin that we find out about when Putin’s people release that he and Trump talked…

After knowing all this and much more, just how far would the FBI go to find out if Trump was Putin’s puppet?  Would they get a FISA warrant to tap his phones?  Would they bug the oval office?  Would they tap Don Jr’s. phone, Manafort’s, Cohen’s…

We are not out of danger yet.  Trump will stop at NOTHING to get out of this, including torturing government worker hostages to demonstrate how cold and ruthless he can be.  The Democratic plan to hold off on impeachment hearings is going to have to be flexible enough to understand the real danger a psychopath in the oval office presents to us all.  And consider this, some Republicans are calling for giving emergency powers, which approach authoritarian in nature, to someone the FBI has and may still be investigating to see if he’s a GD RUSSIAN AGENT!!


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    • Think of the Reichstag fire, burning of the Reichstag (parliament) building in Berlin, on the night of February 27, 1933, a key event in the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship and widely believed to have been contrived by the newly formed Nazi government itself to turn public opinion against its opponents and to assume emergency powers.
      On February 28, 1933, the day after the fire, Hitler’s dictatorship began with the enactment of a decree “for the Protection of the People and the State,” which dispensed with all constitutional protection of political, personal, and property rights. Though the ensuing elections still did not give the Nazis an outright majority, they were able to persuade the Reichstag to pass an Enabling Act (March 23) whereby all its legislative powers were transferred to the Reich Cabinet by a vote of 444 to 94, so sanctioning the dictatorship.

      Extreme example yes, but…is it???


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