The Inspector General’s Report on DOJ’s handling of Clinton’s emails

The Inspector General’s report is over 500 pages long, and the average American is likely not going to read any of it.  So,  Republicans and Democrats are going to have a field day, finding their favorite sentences.   If they don’t find what they want, they will invent some things.

I won’t be commenting on the report right away.  I like to wait until the dust settles.

But to give folks an inkling of what’s coming up from the pundits, here are my predictions:

Republicans:  It is a scathing indictment of the FBI rife with political corruption, which did everything they could so Hillary Clinton could get elected.

Democrats:   The report shows the FBI, for the most part, did a thorough and complete investigation.   The disclosure of results should have been done differently.

 A lot of the focus will be on Comey’s  four announcements, which helped and hurt Clinton as follows:   (1) Opening the investigation in mid 2015 (hurt Clinton), (2) Declaring she did nothing criminal in July 2016 (helped and hurt Clinton, because he added her handling of top secret documents was extremely sloppy)   (3) Re-opening the investigation just before the election (hurt Clinton),  (4) Closing the investigation on October 29, 2016 (helped Clinton).

Rob Rosenstein criticized Comey both for actions that hurt Clinton and helped her.    He claimed that Comey had “usurped” the authority of DOJ when he said that no reasonable prosecutor would file criminal charges against Hillary Clinton.   Rumors right now are that the IG report will reach similar conclusions.   I personally think “usurp”  is too strong, and didn’t take into account the massive campaign waged by Trump every day she was the target of an FBI investigation.

Best to wait for the report, and ignore the noise which is “full of sound and fury.”   (thanks WS).

Stay tuned,

Dave

Comey’s book “Higher Loyalty”

I’ve read the book, cover to cover.  It has received excellent reviews.  Some may be disappointed that he does not provide details in the Russian investigation by Robert Mueller.    In interviews, he has carefully refused to comment on the ongoing investigation.

It is not an anti-Trump book, only there was little to admire about his interactions with the FBI Director Comey.   In fact, there is hardly a mention of Trump until the very few last chapters.   It is rather a pro-FBI and pro-Department of Justice book.  It is a memoir, from early childhood  to his various assignments in public office.

In many areas, it is a book in praise of those who have shown outstanding courage, conviction and values.   A defining moment came with the “Stellar Wind” episode, where Comey had to race to the hospital bed, where Attorney General John Ashcroft, re-affirmed that Comey had full authority to refuse to reauthorize a warrantless  surveillance program on constitutional grounds, despite White House objections.   The hero, was Attorney General John Ashcroft,  very ill at the time with pancreatitis,  surrounded by White House attorneys who wanted him to override James Comey, who was acting AG while Ashcroft was in the hospital:

And then John Ashcroft did something that amazed me.  He pushed himself up on the bed with his elbows.  His tired eyes fixed upon the president’s men and gave Card and Gonzales a rapid-fire blast.  He had been misled about the scope of the surveillance program, he said.   He vented that he had long been denied the legal basis for parts of the program now that he understood it.  Spent, he fell back on his pillow, his breathing labored.  “But that doesn’t matter now,” he said, “because I’m not the attorney general.”  With a finger extended from his shaking left hand, he pointed to me. “There is the attorney general.”

There’s more to this story.  Although hesitant at first,  President Bush makes sufficient revisions to the Stellar Wind program,  and the program is re-authorized by the Department of Justice.  It is a positive example of a president, who is respectful of the independence and authority of the Department of Justice.

Most of the interviews I’ve listen to, are focused on Comey’s interactions with President Trump, which are in the last three chapters of the 14 chapters in the  book.   Comey writes there was a lack of humility in Trump as follows:

As I’d seen from other leaders, being confident enough to be humble – comfortable in their own skin – is at the heart of effective leadership.  That humility makes a whole lot of things possible, none more important than a single, humble question” “What am I missing?”

Later, in a discussion of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, with Comey and CIA Director Clapper with the new Trump team,   Comey writes,“What I found telling was what ask…. how the United States might prepare itself to meet that threat [in future elections]. “

Impatient readers will likely dive bomb into the last chapter of the book, which are strictly on the Trump presidency bypassing most of the very positive messages of the book.    By March 30, 2017,  Trump wanted Comey  to “lift the cloud” of suspicion surrounding his involvement with Russian agents, as it was “impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country.” This was repeated on April 11, 2017.    Comey’s firing came on May 9, 2017, in a very humiliating way, in his fifth month on the job.  He writes, “It may sound strange, but throughout my five months working under Donald Trump,  I wanted to succeed as president… We need our presidents to succeed. ”  

Comey doesn’t venture beyond his go beyond his congressional testimony as a private citizen,  on the reasons for his firing.  He stated then,

And on May 9th, when I learned that I had been fired, for that reason, I immediately came home as a private citizen.  But then the explanations, the shifting explanations, confused me and increasingly concerned me.   

He goes not to say they confused him for three reasons: (1) Trump said on occasions that he was doing a great job,  (2) Trump  said he was fired for the Russian investigation (Lester Holt interview)  and (3)  The initial explanation was based on  decisions Comey  made during the election year at  the conclusion of the email scandal.  I will add to this third reason, which I considered a made to order pretext for firing Comey  in an upcoming blog.

The 3 page epilogue leaves no question about how he feels about Donald Trump as president, as he writes, “Donald Trump’s presidency threatens much of what is good for this nation.”   At this point, it is no longer about a particular event or policy, but of violated norms and values.   It ends on a positive message, as he writes, “The next president, no matter the party, will surely emphasize values – truth, integrity, respect and tolerance – in ways an American leader hasn’t needed to for more than forty years. “

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

News Junkies

There are health junkies, sports junkies, car junkies and news junkies.   Last Sunday, I happen to stumble upon a Porsche show, with models going back to the late 1950’s.   It was phenomenal.  These were car junkies.

News and sports junkies have something in common.  They know the history of players.  They can do a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking.  Example:  “What an idiot,  the wide end receiver was wide open and he decides to run with the ball.  I could have done 10X better.”

This is the case of FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, whose idle conversations on the news of the day and office politics has been blown way out of proportions by the right wing news media.   They were sharing their common interest in politics.   They thought their conversations were private.   They said mean things about both Democrats and Republicans.  This was part of an extra-marital affair.   The affair ended and so did Strzok assignment to Mueller’s team.

Initially, Peter Strzok was the agent in charge of investigating Hillary Clinton’s email.   It meant working nights and weekends, reviewing reams of emails.   I think the text messages to Lisa Page, a lawyer with the FBI, were at times an emotional release to the pressures of work.   The conclusions of the Wall Street Journal are:

Texts critical of Mr. Trump represent a fraction of the roughly 7,000 messages, which stretch across 384 pages and show no evidence of a conspiracy against Mr. Trump. Rather, a broader look shows an unvarnished and complex picture of the lives of an FBI agent and lawyer who found themselves at the center of highly charged probes.

Further the WSJ article states:

They logged long hours and frequently worked on weekends. They seemed dedicated to their jobs but didn’t hesitate to chastise or criticize many others beyond Mr. Trump, including their colleagues and each other. In deeply personal office chatter, they come across as intense, ambitious and unsure of their standing in the bureau.

The short text messages were understandable.  They were real busy.  After the email investigation concluded,  Peter Strzok was assigned to Mueller’s Russian investigation team for two months, before the text messages were discovered.  He was reassigned to work as the  head of Human Resources for the FBI.

Peter Strzod also suggested a change in Comey’s memo on Clinton’s email investigation, indicating that she was “extremely careless”  instead of “grossly negligent” to avoid a misrepresentation that her actions fit the legal definition of the crime of “grosss negligence”  as Secretary of State.    So, this was a change to clarify Comey’s statement.

If there was any inappropriate done  in Peter Strzok  work  either in the email or the Russian investigation, it would be in the text messages to his confidant.  All there is a lot of office chatter after very long hours at the office.

The take away message is,  your right to privacy changes dramatically once you pass through the office doors of your work.   The Fox news commentator’s obsession with FBI conspiracy theories  and misrepresentation is for rating purposes only.   I hope the best for these two FBI agents.   Time to move on.   You can call the entire Patriot’s team  f**king  idiots, and no one will come after you.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Inside the FBI Life of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, as Told in Their Text Messages

 

 

 

 

Day 3 after Comey’s Firing

Trump’s very short notice on the firing, left many thinking the Sessions/ Rosenstein letters from the Dept of Justice was the pretense, rather than the reason for Comey’s firing.

The leaks from the White House are taken far more seriously than Trump’s notice, because they make sense.  Comey wasn’t political.  He was excessively truthful, experienced  and articulate.  These were not redeeming qualities in the mind of the President.

Why are the two letters from the Department of Justice considerable laughable?   Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein’s letter states two reasons for firing Comey all stemming from his July 5, 2016 press conference.  First was that he usurped his authority by the public announcement clearing Clinton of criminal wrongdoing.   Didn’t stop Trump,  fellow Republicans in Congress, and a half dozen commentators on Fox News from slamming Clinton and calling her a crook for the next 5 months.  In fact, Trump was attacking AG Loretta Lynch for her meeting with Bill Clinton on her plane.  Trump  wanted   to show the American people, that both the FBI and  DOJ could not be trusted for a fair evaluation of the Clinton investigation.

Rosenstein did not say that Comey broke any rule or law, only a tradition not to comment on cases until there is a review by the Justice Department.  Comey told the Senate Committee that he decided to come public after there were very unique circumstances. His decision was  related to  concern for the public’s perception of the DOJ’s impartiality.

That public perception of FBI/DOJ  cover up  was created and promoted by  Trump, and many Republicans in Congress.   Many in Congress were calling for an independent Special Investigator which would delay the conclusions of the investigation for months.  FBI/DOJ cover up  went in high gear on June 30, 2016  with the chance meeting between Lynch and Bill Clinton, on a Lynch’s private plane.  Trump accused AG Loretta Lynch of lying when she said they just talked about golf, grandchildren and other pleasantries.  He said it was BS and it was really about the email investigation.

Clinton/ Lynch Chance Meeting /  CNN  Comments

 

Now,  the second of Rosenstein’s reasons is really an over the top, piece of absurdity, only a lawyer could make.   He attacks  Comey’s derogatory comments about Hillary Clinton.  Under a normal environment, the FBI must be very careful of what is said.    However, this was hardly a normal environment, as the public was being informed every time they turned on television, that Hillary was either completely innocent or totally guilty of criminal activity.

It was great to have the FBI Director Comey at the end of his investigation to publically state to the public what exactly the FBI had discovered and had not discovered.   To do less, would have been concealment of facts to the public.  Either Clinton or Trump was going to be President, and had Comey delayed what had been finally concluded, even for one day,  would have given the public the impression of a cover up.

Of course, the real benefactor of Attorney’s derogatory  comment, was candidate Trump, who for the next six months would lamblast Clinton for her extremely reckless handling of the emails.  It is laughable that Trump would fire an FBI Directory, who at least in this aspect, helped him immensely become elected.

Comey had two messages for the American public in July 5, 2016.  The first was that Clinton was wrong in setting up an independent server for her email, and second, this activity was not at the level  of wrong doing that would be considered criminal.   The Department of Justice could have overruled Comey’s conclusion.  In fact, the DOJ has the FBI file, and they could always press charges.

So, forget this Sessions/ Rosenstein letter.    Trump never made much of it.    Comey was too straight forward, too honest, too articulate and too accurate.  No marketing skills whatsoever.  That’s what I liked about Comey.

Now,  Trump is searching for that one individual with less integrity, and more loyalty, and will still be approved by the Senate as Director of the FBI.  Good luck!

The firing  was, and still is about the Russian investigation.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

And Pence is just as bad on pushing email fictions

From factcheck.org:

In an Oct. 30 interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Pence said that “Hillary Clinton continues to refuse to turn over some 33,000 e-mails.” But, as we said earlier, Clinton’s non-work-related emails were deleted more than a year ago, so Clinton doesn’t have them to turn over. As we have previously written, Clinton’s office disclosed on March 10, 2015, that she gave the State Department 30,490 work-related emails on Dec. 5, 2014, and “chose not to keep” 31,830 emails she deemed “personal.” “We went through a thorough process to identify all of my work-related emails and deliver them to the State Department,” Clinton said at a press conference on March 10, 2015. “At the end, I chose not to keep my private personal emails.”

The 31,830 personal emails were deleted “sometime between March 25-31, 2015,” according to the FBI notes of its investigation. As we said earlier, the emails were deleted by a PRN employee about three weeks after Clinton received a congressional subpoena on March 4, 2015. So Clinton is “not continuing to refuse to turn over some 33,000 e-mails,” as Pence claimed. Because they were deleted by PRN (private computer company), she doesn’t have them to release.

PRN stands for Platte River Network.   So, these accusations that Hillary Clinton either refused to turn over emails or ordered them destroyed has been investigated and found to be false.   Time for Republicans to move on.

Fact check is a non-partisan organization, is a project from the Annaberg Public Policy Center.  See:

www.factcheck.org

They find many false statements from both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Stupid Trump Claims – Part III

The Clinton crew gave more than $675,000 to the wife of the deputy director of the FBI.”

Factcheck.org concludes:
Trump says the “Clinton crew,” but he isn’t talking about Clinton or anyone in Clinton’s campaign. He is talking about Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime friend and supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton. A political action committee controlled by McAuliffe and the Virginia Democratic Party combined donated more than $675,000 to Dr. Jill McCabe, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the Virginia Senate in 2015.
McAuliffe’s PAC, Common Good VA, made other large donations in 2015: $803,500 to state Senate candidate Jeremy McPike, who won his election, and $781,500 to Daniel Gecker, who lost. The big donations were part of an all-out effort by the Democratic governor to help his party gain control of the Senate in the November 2015 elections. That effort failed, and the makeup of the Senate remained unchanged with the Republicans holding a narrow 21 to 19 advantage.
Trump focuses on the donations to McCabe, because she is the wife of Andrew McCabe, who at the time of the donations was either head of the FBI field office in Washington, D.C., or assistant deputy director of the FBI. Andrew McCabe was not involved in the FBI investigation of Clinton’s emails when his wife was running for office. He was promoted to deputy director in February 2016, and at that time he assumed “an oversight role in the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s emails,” according to a statement from an FBI spokesman.
There is no evidence that Clinton had any knowledge of the donations or that they were made to influence the FBI investigation of her handling of classified information. (See “Clinton’s Connection to FBI Official.”)
Trump assembles — or rather disassembles — these half-truths and innuendos to reach his shaky conclusion that “this is bigger than Watergate.” That’s his opinion, but at least one person who was involved in Watergate disagrees.
John Dean, who served as White House counsel to Nixon from 1970 to 1973. wrote an op-ed in the New York Times calling the Watergate comparison “nonsense.”
“Only someone who knows nothing about the law, and the darkest moment of our recent political history, would see a parallel between Nixon’s crimes and Mrs. Clinton’s mistakes,” Dean said, noting that “some four dozen Nixon aides and associates were convicted of or pleaded guilty to criminal misconduct, including me.”

Stupid Trump Claims- Part 2

Hillary Clinton is not playing Trump’s game of making her deny his false allegations. He wants her to play on defense. But I will.

Donald Trump stated the following:

“She made 13 phones disappear, some with a hammer.”

Factcheck.org disagrees:
It is true that the FBI said (on page 8) it “identified 13 total mobile devices … which potentially were used to send e-mails using Clinton’s clintonemail.com e-mail addresses.” But only eight of the 13 were used while Clinton was secretary of state, the FBI said, so Trump exaggerates the number of devices she had during her four years in office. (See “A Guide to Clinton’s Emails.”)
The FBI also quoted a Clinton aide (on page 9) as saying that he could recall on two occasions that he got rid of old mobile devices by breaking them in half or hitting them with a hammer.
Trump insinuates that there is something sinister about owning several mobile devices and destroying the old ones when they are replaced. But the FBI came to no such conclusion, and security experts interviewed by the technology website Wired said destroying old devices is a good way to erase data — if done properly.

The stupid and untrue email claims – Part 1

The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

John Kennedy, June 11, 1962, Yale Commencement Address

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Hillary Clinton is not playing Trump’s game of making her deny his false allegations.  He wants her to play on defense.   But I will.

Donald Trump stated the following:

“But you know, the deletion of 33,000 e-mails, boy, that just sort of is so out there, after receiving a subpoena from the United States government. She lied to Congress, she lied to the FBI, she made 13 phones disappear, some with a hammer. The Clinton crew gave more than $675,000 to the wife of the deputy director of the FBI and the man who was overseeing the investigation into Hillary’s illegal server.”

None of these statements are true.

Here is what factcheck.org has to say on the first claim.

Trump conflates and distorts three separate issues to make his Watergate comparison. Let’s take them in order.

“Hillary bleached and deleted 33,000 e-mails after receiving a congressional subpoena.”

Trump is referring to 31,830 emails that Clinton’s lawyers had deemed personal. These emails did not have to be turned over to the State Department, which in the summer of 2014 requested all work-related emails that the former secretary of state had in her possession. (See “A Guide to Clinton’s Emails.”)

The department’s policy allows its employees to determine which emails are work-related and must be preserved. “Messages that are not records may be deleted when no longer needed,” according to the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual (5 FAM 443.5). (See “Trump on the Stump.“)

That means Clinton was within her right to delete these emails, so that’s the first thing to know.

Now, Trump is right that these emails were deleted about three weeks after Clinton received a subpoena on March 4 from a Republican-controlled House committee investigating the 2012 deaths of four Americans in Benghazi. However, there is no evidence that she knew that the emails were deleted after the subpoena was issued.

According to the FBI’s investigative notes, Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s former chief of staff, in December 2014 told Platte River Networks that Clinton had preserved her work-related emails and “no longer needed access to any of her e-mails older than 60 days.” At that time, Mills instructed a PRN employee “to modify the e-mail retention policy” on Clinton’s server “to reflect this change.” That would automatically delete the old emails. But the PRN employee told the FBI that “he had an ‘oh shit’ moment” after learning about the subpoena sometime between March 25 and March 31, 2015, which is when he deleted Clinton’s emails. Clinton told the FBI that she was not aware that PRN deleted her emails in late March 2015, and the FBI did not say when she learned that they were deleted. (See “The FBI Files on Clinton’s Emails.”)

PRN used a free software program called BleachBit to delete the emails. That’s what Trump means when he says the emails were “bleached.” Other times he has said that Clinton “used chemicals” to “acid wash or bleach” her emails. That’s part of the deception, too. (See “Trump, Pence ‘Acid Wash’ Facts.”)

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—- Bottom line is there is no requirement that government employees retain personal emails after they leave service.  Also, there is zero evidence to support the allegation that Hillary Clinton ordered deletion of personal emails after receiving a subpoena from a Republican controlled House committee.   

What happens next Comey-wise?

Watching too much CNN recently.   But, what pretty much makes sense, is nothing happens.  Comey  can refuse to answer all questions of an ongoing investigation, so bringing him in front of a subcommittee would be pure political theater.  He could refuse to appear, and be served with a subpoena.

Director Comey could make a mad dash to complete the investigation in the next 5 days- but experts are saying this is not realistic.   So,  nothing is likely to be resolved before the election.  Afterwards, if Clinton is elected, it is a super mess, particularly if Trump fails to concede.

The reason emails were sent to Hillary’s aide laptop, was so she could print them off and give them to Hillary.  If a classified email was on Huma Abedin’s laptop, and subsequently used by Anthony Wiener,  all this was unintentional.   Director Comey will not recommend prosecution for Huma Adelin, Anthony Wiener nor Hillary Clinton IF  classified information not previously discovered on the server  is found on the laptop.    The information was not where it was supposed to be. But there certainly was no public disclosure of classified information, only the unintentional mishandling of information, which Huma nor Anthony Wiener likely did not know was classified, and will not be charged with any crimes.

So I think this is really a lot of fuss by the media over very little.

Stay tuned,

Dave