More on the Sondland call that may not exist

I was glad that the House Intel Committee also raised doubts on the existence of a  second September call between Sondland and the President.    In their December 3, 2019 report, it is stated:

“A call on September 9, which would have occurred in the middle of the night, is at odds with the weight of the evidence and not backed up by any records the White House was willing to provide Ambassador Sondland.”

Just heard CNN saying the same thing .  News travels fast!

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Hunter Biden

Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and likely Mike Mulvaney were out to smear Joe Biden, because he looked like the most likely Democratic candidate in 2020.  In the process, they would have to smear his son, Hunter Biden.  Trump didn’t care about the truth.    There were enough bits of truth  where falsehoods could be inserted.  Giuliani and Mulvaney just did what the President wanted.   There was a lot of collateral damage, including the firing of Ambassador Yovanovitch.     Burisma was code for the Bidens.

The Republicans wanted Hunter Biden to testify at the impeachment inquiry in order to create a false narrative  that the good mayor of NYC, Rudy  Giuliani  was so concerned about the Ukrainian company, Burisma, and prior connection with Hunter Biden, that he flew to Ukraine to launch his own investigation and uncover the truth.  The truth of the matter is   Giuliani went to Ukraine for two reasons – as Trump’s personal lawyer to help Trump win 2020 by creating a scandal built on lies , and to make himself rich (really richer) dealing with corrupt politicians in Ukraine and two con artists posing as investors with a made up company, called Global Energy Partners.

What was revealed in the inquiry, was that after the Ukrainian revolution, corruption was widespread, and the US and other countries grew concern that at the very top of government, Chief Prosecutor Viktor Shokin, would do nothing  to investigate corruption including the natural gas company, Burisma.  Typically, when faced with illegal actions, corrupt officials seen a chance to get a piece of the action.    I have included the biographical summaries of Viktor Shokin and others.  .

Here’s the complete story as summarized by Wikipedia:

In the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, Mykola Zlochevsky faced a money laundering investigation,[27][28] and his company Burisma Holdings, the largest natural gas producer in Ukraine,[8] assembled a “high-profile international board” in response.[29][28] Biden, then an attorney with Boies Schiller Flexner, was hired to help Burisma with corporate governance best practices, and a consulting firm in which Biden is a partner was also retained by Burisma.[30][31][32] Chris Heinz, John Kerry’s stepson, opposed his partners Devon Archer and Hunter Biden joining the board in 2014 due to the reputational risk.[28] Among those who joined the board of directors in April 2014 were Biden, Archer and former Polish president Aleksander Kwaśniewski.[33] Biden served on the board of Burisma until his term expired in April 2019,[34] receiving compensation of up to $50,000 per month in some months.[15][35][36] Because Vice President Biden played a major role in U.S. policy towards Ukraine, some Ukrainian anti-corruption advocates[37][38] and Obama administration officials expressed concern that Hunter Biden’s having joined the board could create the appearance of a conflict of interest and undermine Vice President Biden’s anti-corruption work in Ukraine.[8][28] While serving as vice president, Joe Biden joined other Western leaders in encouraging the government of Ukraine to fire the country’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin,[39][40] who was widely criticized for blocking corruption investigations.[41][42] The Ukrainian parliament voted to remove Shokin in March 2016.[43][44]

In 2019, President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, claimed that Vice President Biden had actually sought the dismissal of Shokin in order to protect his son and Burisma Holdings,[45][37] however, there is no evidence that this was what happened.[39][46] There has also been no evidence produced of wrongdoing done by Hunter Biden in Ukraine.[47] The Ukrainian anti-corruption investigation agency stated in September 2019 that the current investigation of Burisma was restricted solely to investigating the period of 2010 to 2012, before Hunter Biden joined Burisma in 2014.[48] Shokin in May 2019 claimed that he was fired because he had been actively investigating Burisma,[49] but U.S. and Ukrainian officials have stated that the investigation into Burisma was dormant at the time of Shokin’s dismissal.[28][49][50] Ukrainian and United States State Department sources have maintained that Shokin was fired for failing to address corruption, including within his office.[46][38][51]

As usual,  Wikipedia backs up it facts with several references, which can be found online.

The Board of Directors do not run a company.  It is very commonplace to select outside directors to help establish the legitimacy of a company. A former Burisma board member, ex Polish President Kwasniewsky,  has stated that Hunter Biden was on the board of Burisma because of his name.   See link below.  I usually don’t quote from Fox News, but this article comes from a first hand account of Hunter Biden, and directly contradicts the Trump- Giuliani narrative.

It seems Hunter Biden and Joe Biden were part of the solution, not the problem with Burisma.   According to Wikipedia:  “Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko said in May 2019 that Hunter Biden had not violated Ukrainian law. After Lutsenko was replaced by Ruslan Ryaboshapka as prosecutor general, Lutsenko and Ryaboshapka said in September and October 2019 respectively that they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden.[39][58][59]”  According to the testimony at the impeachment inquiry,  the IMF and others in the European community were glad when VP Biden demanded the firing of Viktor Shokin, so anti-corruption prosecutions could go forward.

The Republicans would love to put Hunter Biden  in the spotlight because he has abused drugs and alcohol in the past by his own admission.   He was divorced in 2016, and Republicans would have a field day with his ex-wife’s accusations, as reported in Refinery29:  “In 2016, Hunter’s wife Kathleen Biden filed for divorce, stating in the motion filed a year later that Hunter “created financial concerns for the family by spending extravagantly on his own interests (including drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, strip clubs, and gifts for women with whom he has sexual relations), while leaving the family with no funds to pay legitimate bills.” After the divorce, he went on to date his late brother’s widowed wife, Hallie Biden.”   Pretty juicy stuff.  Republicans would also love to focus on Hunter Biden’s dismissal from the Naval Reserves because he tested positive for cocaine.

So:  Republican talking points would be a long one,  really coming down hard  on Hunter Biden’s past personal problems.   Somehow, this made the dirt collecting mission of Giuliani permissible.   Trump continues his attacks on Hunter Biden.

None of these problems seem to affect his legal and business consulting career.  Today, he is re-married and by all appearances, is doing well.  See links below.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia: Hunter Biden 

Wikipedia:  Viktor Shokin

Refinery29:  Hunter Biden Opens Up About Struggles With Addiction

Why Giuliani Singled Out 2 Ukrainian Oligarchs to Help Look for Dirt

AP/ Fox Business News:  Hunter Biden hired because of his name: Burisma board member

Nice to see Fox Business News doing some news reporting!

USA Today: Trump’s conspiracy theories thrive in Ukraine, where a young democracy battles corruption and distrust

And there’s tons more:   Wikipedia: Dmytro Firtas    

(Conspiracy advocates, take a look at the names,  William Barr,  Victoria Toensing, Joseph diGenova,  Rudy Giuliani,  Dmytro Firtas accused of bribery).  Money doesn’t talk, it swears (Bob Dylan).

Wikipedia:  ” As vice president, Joe Biden had urged the Ukrainian government to eliminate middlemen such as Firtash from the country’s natural gas industry, and to reduce the country’s reliance on imports of Russian natural gas. Firtash denied involvement in collecting or financing damaging information on the Bidens.[86]”

The bigger scandal is how Putin worked with the corrupt oligarchs in Ukraine.

Impeachment Inquiry and Bribery (Nov 21)

Ok, I plead guilty to watching the impeachment inquiry  testimony for hours at a time.  I listen to both Republicans and Democrats members of the Intel Committee.   It is  like a courtroom drama, except there is no neutral judge to disallow certain testimony, the defense is not allowed to call their own witnesses, and the jurors on impeachment are obviously  biased.  Democrats get to decide on the rules.    The partisan nature of impeachment is part of our system.   The general charge is that Trump violated the constitution by conditioning the military aid to the Ukraine on an announcement of two investigations, one involving Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 elections and the second on the Bidens, to help Trump win in 2020.

Several tactics have been used to defend the president.  The first is to attack the witnesses as partisan, just out to embarrass Trump  which has been a terrible disaster.   Trump started this attack in very disrespectful attacks on  Ambassador Yovanovitch, who was subjected to a smear campaign in the State Department, and officials there knew about it.  Rep Jim Jordan is easily identified in the hearings as he does not wear a suit jacket.  His job is  the witness attack dog and he sought to discredit Lt. Col. Vindman, who received excellent reviews from his superiors.  All witnesses strongly supported Trump’s policies of providing lethal military aid to the Ukraine.  So, really every time he questions a witness, they seem partisan, but in the direction of Trump rather than Obama’s policies.  It continually backfired.

The second line of defense is to focus on the ultimate outcome, which is Ukraine  got the aid without having to announce an investigation.  But as every lawyer knows, bribery does not require the completion of the bribe in exchange for something of value.  The third line of defense is to consider holds on assistance a fairly routine occurrence.  Again, this fails because the reasons for the hold were for political dirt to for the 2020 election.   There is no other analogous case.   Finally, Jordan has forcefully put forward that none of the witnesses have proved that a specific demand for “Biden dirt” came from an email or conversation with Trump.   Schiff was quick to point out that proof of bribery does not require this and corrupt officials are not likely to put into writing that they are interested in bribing the government of a foreign government.

So, as the testimony goes on, you can mark down the number of times we have (1) Character attack, witness bias (2) They got the money anyway  (3) Holds are common place and (4) Evidence lacking tying Trump to a bribe.  I might also add a number 5 defense, in that Trump’s aid to Ukraine was much better than Obama’s, which has failed because witnesses, if asked, are agreeing with this, and it tends to weaken the character attack defense.  I might add a number 6 defense in which to point out inconsistencies from prior testimony.  It is a kind of “are you lying now or were you lying in your first deposition” or “how is it that you claim this, as other witnesses/documents show the direct opposite?” .  I call  this a bit of the war of words.

Democrats have their tactics too, as they are trying to show how all the testimony fits together, and at times they oversimplify things.

Throughout all of this, I still wish the impeachment inquiry was finished with as I feel it will end with the Senate acquitting Trump, and he will be using the word “hoax”  – as in impeachment hoax and Russian investigation hoax about a million times from now until election day.  Still the evidence is strong – see CNN summary.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

CNN Opinion: Trump and bribery claim: Does the shoe fit?

House Intelligence Committee

This is a committee with a majority of Republicans who will do anything they can to avoid a real investigation of the Russian inference in the 2016 election.   Instead, they will pursue construction of a false narrative based on carefully chosen information,     arranged creatively  to disparage the  Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton.

This is the Republican counter attack on the real events which took place during our national elections, in which the Russian government and operatives in the US,  secretly tried to influence the election in favor of Donald Trump.   There are many reasons the Russians  did not want Hillary Clinton to win, but in general it was her hard stance against Russian expansion.   It was clear she would work through the UN and other organizations to sanction Russia.

This committee serves a second purpose, which at the moment is vital to President Trump.    With the false narrative,  the committee has constructed an excuse to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.   Trump needs to do this in order to fire Robert Mueller.   This is the plan to avoid an obstruction of justice charge against the President.  Trump doesn’t know what Mueller has, but he doesn’t want to take chances.   Trump has said repeatedly he plays to win.

The cleverly constructed narrative  falls perfectly into Trump’s defense, which he has said often, that whatever the Republicans did wrong in the elections was nothing compared to the Democrats.  Representatives Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy excel at creative writing but fail in the honesty department.

The “path of least resistance” is a law of physics that applies to inanimate objects.  This path for Sessions,  Rosenstein and Wray is out the door, but I am real glad they are staying put.

This blog is a separate page and I will link it to a series of commentaries in the future.  The story was too big to keep it as one of my posts.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Nunes Memo

The Honorable Adam Schiff
Ranking Member, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Declassified by order of the President
February 2, 2018

January 18, 2018

To: HPSCI Majority Members
From: HPSCI Majority Staff
Subject: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation

 

Purpose

This memorandum provides Members an update on significant facts relating to the Committee’s ongoing investigation into the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and their use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during the 2016 presidential election cycle. Our findings, which are detailed below, 1) raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and 2) represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process.

Investigation Update

On October 21, 2016, DOJ and FBI sought and received a FISA probable cause order (not under Title VII) authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page from the FISC. Page is a US citizen who served as a volunteer advisor to the Trump presidential campaign. Consistent with requirements under FISA, the application had to be first certified by the Director or Deputy Director of the FBI. It then required the approval of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General (DAG), or the Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division.

The FBI and DOJ obtained one initial FISA warrant targeting Carter Page and three FISA renewals from the FISC. As required by statute (50 U.S.C. 1805(d)(1)), a FISA order on an American citizen must be renewed by the ISC every 90 days and each renewal requires a separate finding of probable cause. Then-Director James Comey signed three FISA applications in question on behalf of the FBI, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one. Sally Yates, then-Acting DAG Dana Boente, and DAG Rod Rosenstein each signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of DOJ.

Due to the sensitive nature of foreign intelligence activity, FISA submissions (including renewals) before the ISC are classified. As such, the public’s confidence in the integrity of the FISA process depends on the court’s ability to hold the government to the highest standard — particularly as it relates to surveillance of American citizens. However, the rigor in protecting the rights of Americans, which is reinforced by 90-day renewals of surveillance orders, is necessarily dependent on the government’s production to the court of all material and relevant facts. This should include information potentially favorable to the target of the FISA application that is known by the government. In the case of Carter Page, the government had at least four independent opportunities before the FISC to accurately provide an accounting of the relevant facts. However, our findings indicate that, as described below, material and relevant information was omitted.

1) The “dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele (Steele dossier) on behalf of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application. Steele was a longtime FBI source who was paid over $160,000 by the DNC and Clinton campaign, via the law firm Perkins Coie and research firm Fusion GPS, to obtain derogatory information on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

a) Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior and FBI officials.

b) The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named U.S. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a U.S. Law firm (Perkins Coie) representing the DNC (even though it was known by DOJ at the time that political actors were involved with the Steele dossier). The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of — and paid by — the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.

2) The Carter Page FISA application also cited extensively a September 23, 2016, Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff, which focuses on Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow. This article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News. The Page FISA application incorrectly assesses that Steele did not directly provide information to Yahoo News. Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo News — and several other outlets – in September 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS. Perkins Coie was aware of Steele’s initial media contacts because they hosted at least one meeting in Washington DC. in 2016 with Steele and Fusion GPS where this matter was discussed.”

a) Steele was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations — an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI in an October 30, 2016, Mother Jones article by David Corn. Steele should have been terminated for his previous undisclosed contacts with Yahoo and other outlets in September — before the Page application was submitted to the FISC in October — but Steele improperly concealed from and lied to the FBI about those contacts.

b) Steele’s numerous encounters with the media violated the cardinal rule of source handling — maintaining confidentiality — and demonstrated that Steele had become a less than reliable source for the FBI.

3) Before and after Steele was terminated as a source, he maintained contact with DOJ via then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, a senior DOJ official who worked closely with Deputy Attorneys General Yates and later Rosenstein. Shortly after the election, the FBI began interviewing Ohr, documenting his communications with Steele. For example, in September 2016, Steele admitted to Ohr his feelings against then-candidate Trump when Steele said he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” This clear evidence of Steele’s bias was recorded by Ohr at the time and subsequently in official FBI files – but not reflected in any of the Page FISA applications.

a) During this same time period, Ohr’s wife was employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump. Ohr later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research, paid for by the DNC and Clinton campaign via Fusion GPS. The Ohrs’ relationship with Steele and Fusion GPS was inexplicably concealed from the FISC.

4) According to the head of the counterintelligence division, Assistant Director Bill Priestap, corroboration of the Steele dossier was in its “infancy” at the time of the initial Page FISA application. After Steele was terminated, a source validation report conducted by an independent unit within FBI assessed Steele’s reporting as only minimally corroborated. Yet, in early January 2017, Director Comey briefed President-elect Trump on a summary of the Steele dossier, even though it was — according to his June 2017 testimony – “salacious and unverified.” While the FISA application relied on Steele’s past record of credible reporting on other unrelated matters, it ignored or concealed his anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations. Furthermore, Deputy Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.

5) The Page FISA application also mentions information regarding fellow Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, but there is no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos. The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok. Strzok was reassigned by the Special Counsel’s Office to FBI Human Resources for improper text messages with his mistress, FBI Attorney Lisa Page (no known relation to Carter Page), where they both demonstrated a clear bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton, Whom Strzok had also investigated. The Strzok/Lisa Page texts also reflect extensive discussions about the investigation, orchestrating leaks to the media, and include a meeting with Deputy Director McCabe to discuss an “insurance” policy against President Trump’s election.