Trump’s fixer man, Michael Cohen, and his secret business dealings

Michael Cohen is both a lawyer and a business man.    Search warrants  were served on Mr. Cohen because he is  being investigated for possible campaign finance violations, bank fraud and wire fraud.   It is part of a federal grand jury investigation which was empaneled months ago.  On Monday,  Mr. Cohen lost in his request to have all items seized in the raid returned to him.     It was established in court, that in the last year and a half,  Cohen provided legal advice to only three clients,  Donald Trump,  Elliott Broidy and Sean Hannity.   Sean Hannity denied he was Mr. Cohen’s client.

In their search, investigators also sought to obtain records relating to Cohen’s ownership of taxi medallions — high-value assets that are often used as collateral for loans, according to people familiar with the matter.  The value of the medallions was sharply dropping in value, as a result of Uber and Lyft.   Between April and June 2017, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance filed seven tax warrants against Cohen and his wife for $37,434 in unpaid taxi taxes due to the MTA.[13]

Prosecutors are following the money on this one.   The  $130,000 payoff to Stormy Daniels, might be the most visible sign of shady business, but I suspect there are far bigger targets.   Elliott Broidy  needed Cohen’s help to hide the fact that his affair with Playboy model, Shera Bachard, who he made pregnant, and Cohen arranged a 1.3 million dollar payment to hush up the affair.    The child was aborted.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Broidy was a national deputy chairman of the R.N.C.’s finance committee, a title he shared with Mr. Cohen.  Mr. Broidy is the second member of that committee to resign this year amid questions involving their behavior with women and deals to silence them.

So,  how big is this swamp?   Here is more from the New York Times article:

During the wide-ranging October meeting, Mr. Broidy raised numerous topics high on the agenda of the United Arab Emirates, a country that has given his security company a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He pitched the president on a paramilitary force his company was developing for the U.A.E. and urged Mr. Trump to fire Rex W. Tillerson, then the secretary of state, who the U.A.E. believed was insufficiently tough on its rival Qatar.

The documents show that Mr. Broidy has worked closely with George Nader, an adviser to the U.A.E. and a witness in the special counsel’s investigation, to help steer Trump administration policy on numerous issues in the Middle East. Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, is examining Mr. Nader’s possible role in funneling Emirati money to finance Mr. Trump’s political efforts. There is no indication that Mr. Mueller’s team is looking into Mr. Broidy.

In 2009, Mr. Broidy pleaded guilty to charges that he made nearly $1 million worth of illegal gifts to New York State officials in order to win an investment of $250 million from the state’s public pension fund. Among the gifts were trips to Israel and Italy, payouts to officials’ relatives and girlfriends and an investment in one relative’s production of a low-budget movie called “Chooch.”

It is also reported that there are no emails between Donald Trump and Michael Cohen.   Trump apparently doesn’t use email.

If true, can you imagine the gall of Broidy, wanting to get rid of the secretary of state,  because of his business dealings in the UAE.    Our environmental policies, have been sold out to the fossil fuel companies,  but was  Trump also trading in our relations with other Middle East countries to help support his donors?    Broidy was also on Trump’s inaugural ceremony committee, where millions  were unaccounted for according to MSNBC’s Rachel Madlow and others (see link).

I’m honestly not that interested in Stormy Daniel’s hush money contract, or  Elliot Broidy’s affair,  but the Middle East connections, by way of George Nader.  This might help Mueller’s team.

At this point, it is a legal battle between the president’s lawyers who want to do anything possible to impede the review by the “taint team”  verses the Department of Justice who want to know to get the team’s  review done as soon as possible.   Judge Kimba Woods has stated that case law on confidentiality, applies equally, be it the president of the United States, or the man on the street.   This has also been the opinion of the Supreme Court,  dating back to claims of Executive Privilege in the days of Nixon and Watergate.   Judge Woods  will likely decide soon whether a Special Master should be appointed.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Whatever happened to the money from Trump’s inaugural committee?

 

Client-Attorney Privilege/ Alan Dershowitz

It is very common knowledge that the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s office to seize information relevant to the Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniel’s cases.   Michael Cohen is Trump’s personal lawyer.

There’s been so much commentary on the raid, that it seems hardly worth adding to it.  However, the one person who doesn’t seem terrible angry is Michael Cohen, as follows:

Two days after FBI agents raided his home and office—reportedly seeking documents related to hush payments made to women with whom President Trump allegedly had an affair, among other information—the president’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen had this to say: “I just want my stuff back.” That comment, made to ABC News, was Cohen’s first remark since telling CNN on Tuesday that the raiding federal agents were “extremely professional, courteous and respectful,” contradicting the president’s claim that agents “broke into” his lawyer’s office.

I stated before that it seemed everything was done by the book.  The Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, signed off on the search warrant.  He is a Trump appointee.  There were multiple checks on this search warrant.   Michael Cohen is under investigation for bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance contributions.

The items seized from Michael Cohen are with the “taint team” to determine if what information is relevant under the scope of the search.  It is another safeguard to protect the rights of Michael Cohen, against unreasonable searches.

Alan Dershowitz, the very well known defense attorney and former Harvard professor, doesn’t see it this way.  He obviously doesn’t believe there are enough checks in the system, to allow a search and still protect the legitimate privacy of an attorney’s records outside of what is criminal evidence.  An article appearing in The Hill,  is provided in the links.  He has appeared on Fox News network, with the same opinion.  Others, particularly on CNN and MSNBC,  have voiced far more confidence in the judicial system and believe prosecutors will respect the rights of Mr. Cohen.  I am particularly concerned, when Alan Dershowitz states that FBI raids should be limited to only “major crimes”  which he then states this isn’t one of them.   What will remain in the hands of judges, is the evidence that was used to support the search warrant, so Dershowitz, like the rest of us, is completely in the dark.

We have First Amendment rights of free speech.   This is the protection for individuals, who espouse very unpopular opinions including radicals on the far right and left of the political spectrum.   It  protects  gay rights activist and  atheist organizations.   When high powered attorneys  seek to intimidate people to give up their rights in exchange for money,  I think this is worthy of an investigation.   It is particularly egregious if the Daniel’s contract was invalid and payments were violations of campaign finance laws.   The Supreme Court allows massive donations to be given to political parties, to monopolize the air waves during campaigns.  The courts can not condone campaign violations which also silence dissent during a campaign.

To ignore potential violations of law helps create new rights for the wealthy and powerful class, a form of immunity from the law.  Donald Trump felt that he could have his lawyer fix  his indiscretions through physical harm and hush money to gain the silence of others, leaving him in the clear.    This was done to help his campaign for president, running on a campaign who claimed (until today) that his opponent was crooked.   The First Amendment is needed for small people or people who work for small organizations.

Dershowitz further states that the raid will make people afraid to seek legal advice.  I seriously doubt it.   A good lawyer will be sure to take steps to ensure confidentiality by having a client sign a contract to represent them in a specific matter.   The problem Trump has, is that he wanted Cohen to fix everything, and leave him in the clear.   It likely made Cohen a partner in crime.

Dershowitz goes on, to state this highly intrusive manner of collecting evidence, was done for political reasons.  Again, this seems contrary to facts as there were reviews of this warrant in the Justice Department and the Southern District of New York.  If a similar raid were conducted on Hillary Clinton’s office, it would have to go through the same court system.  I would support this as well.

I believe Michael Cohen subdued reaction is because he knows the FBI has a mountain of incriminating evidence against him.   The role of Trump’s fixer came to an abrupt end, and now the fixer has some real negotiating to do with authorities instead of Trump’s occasional indiscretions.

The late night comedians, such as Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, are having a tremendous amount of fun over the irony in all of this.   Trump appointed an Attorney General, who has been as tough as nails on illegal immigration, drug use and against sentencing reforms.   Yet, Trump is steadfastly trying to make himself an exception to the heightened law and order approach of the Justice Department.

Trump is saying in essence, “Go after criminals, but stay away from my campaign officials and their contacts.”

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

http://thehill.com/opinion/judiciary/382459-dershowitz-targeting-trumps-lawyer-should-worry-us-all

Wikipedia:  Jeff Sessions

Search warrant for Michael Cohen, Trump’s Personal Lawyer

It appears to me nothing illegal or unethical or disgraceful has occurred. Prosecutors know about white collar crime, and they are just following the money. Attorney-client privileges are not absolute, meaning what is a lawyer’s computer or cellphone can never be seen by law enforcement officers. But it has to be done through the courts based on probable cause. Court decisions acknowledge the need for confidentiality in the defense of clients and this has resulted in more rules in law office searches, designed to protect privileged information.  There are exceptions.   President Trump has stated repeatedly he had no knowledge of hush money being paid to Stormy Daniels or the contract, so the client-attorney privilege is gone in this particular matter.

The potential criminal charges against Trump’s personal lawyer are bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations. This is serious stuff. The search warrant was executed on part by a referral from Robert Mueller’s office. The decision to seek a warrant was in the office of the Southern District of New York. The lead US Attorney for the Southern District is Geoffrey Berman, who is a recent Trump appointee. Only the courts can approve a warrant based on probable cause. All the specifics on the rationale for the search warrant are confidential by law. The American people do not have the right to know everything – and that’s how our justice system has always operated for the good.

Before anything is given to prosecutors, there must be an initial neutral examination of the seized material as explained below, and more completely in the second link:

The critically important interests protected by the attorney-client and work product privileges can be preserved only if the seized materials are examined by a neutral judicial officer, or by a Special Master appointed for this purpose, to determine which materials are or are not encompassed within the privileges. Such a safeguard is essential, as a number of courts have recognized.

 

This means what was seized by the FBI, is in the control of a court appointed neutral judicial officer. The person would have no connection to Michael Cohen, the Justice Department or the Southern District of NY.
Will Michael Cohen sue for irreparable harm to his practice? Absolutely. Will he get the blessings from the legal establishment to push back? Maybe. Will he be indicted? I haven’t a clue. Will this help Mueller’s investigation? Ditto.

There’s a whole pile of other questions, which no one on the outside can answer. For the time being, it appears to me nothing illegal or unethical or disgraceful has occurred.

Stay tuned,
Dave

Links:

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers,  Challenging the Law Office Search,  Weinberg and Homan, 1996.

The above link in from 1996.   The Fourth Amendment provides all Americans the right against unreasonable searches.  The sixth amendment provides the right to legal counsel.   Many of the rules governing legal search warrants have been the result of various court cases.   The protections available through the Fourth Amendment were strengthened by the Mapp v. Ohio court decision, which made excluded all evidence obtained illegally to be used in any court proceeding  in the US (exclusionary rule).  If the FBI breaks into an office, without first obtaining a legal search warrant, then none of the information from the search is admissible.

Privilege (evidence)

Privilege belongs to the client.  If Trump had stated that Cohen acted on his behalf, then he could use attorney-client privilege to shield Cohen.  Instead, he denied knowing anything about the payoff, so the claim of privilege evidence is gone.  It also appears that more liberal judges, tend to be give more weight to client’s rights in attorney-client privileges, than to the law enforcement’s needs.  The Andresen v. Maryland case upheld the legitimacy of the search warrant over the dissent of Brennan and Marshall.

Trump lashes out as Cohen raid fuses Russia probe and Stormy case

I’m really don’t think “fuses” is the right word.   Robert Mueller really separated his probe from Michael Cohen case, when he handed it off the the Southern District office.  It seems Trump wants to lump them together as one grand conspiracy.

Changes in the Administration

I did not  comment on the firing of Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State or Andrew McCabe,  Deputy Director of the FBI.  In both cases, I was really hoping that Trump would not fire them.   Rex Tillerson seemed to be working in the same mode as John Kerry and Hillary Clinton,  with a lot of travel and face to face meetings.   I think this was particularly important. He did not take sides in the Saudi Arabia – Qatar crisis, as Trump had done, but stated we would help facilitate an eventual end to the blockade of Qatar.  He understood the priority should be in Middle East unity in fighting terrorism, and Qatar with a US military base has helped this effort.   Trump on the other hand,  seems to want to intensify the Sunni-Shia rift, siding with the Saudi’s and against Iran.

There are hot spots all over the world, Yemen,  Somalia, Libya and northern Syria.   It is the United States “soft power”  that  helps keep the peace.    Proxy wars intensify as outsiders supply the equipment, making any negotiations more difficult.  Syria, Libya and Yemen are classic proxy wars.  There should be widespread condemnation of massive human rights violations,  the most recent on in the ethnic cleaning in Myanmar of the Rohingya,  the 600,000 survivors of this genocide are now living in Bangladesh.  I don’t think Mike Pompeo is ready to look beyond partisan politics.

There is no question that Andrew McCabe was fired from the FBI, as was Director James Comey, because he was doing his job, and would not be influenced by politics.   Russian meddling in the US elections to help Trump win the elections did happen.   The manner of the firing of Tillerson,  Comey and McCabe,  through Twitter or the media,  showed Trump could a very mean and disrespectful.

Now,  I am very fearful of Trump’s  new administration selections, Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State and John Bolton, National Security Adviser.

The most urgent decision is on Iran, and the likely US pull out of the Iran nuclear accord in May 2018.  In the House,  Mike Pompeo led the charge against the Iran Nuclear Deal.  The New Times editorial on John Bolton, was scathing:

Yes, John Bolton is really that bad

The good thing about John Bolton, President Trump’s new national security adviser, is that he says what he thinks.

The bad thing is what he thinks.

There are few people more likely than Mr. Bolton is to lead the country into war. His selection is a decision that is as alarming as any Mr. Trump has made. His selection, along with the nomination of the hard-line C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, as secretary of state, shows the degree to which Mr. Trump is indulging his worst nationalistic instincts.

Mr. Bolton, in particular, believes the United States can do what it wants without regard to international law, treaties or the political commitments of previous administrations.

He has argued for attacking North Korea to neutralize the threat of its nuclear weapons, which could set off a horrific war costing tens of thousands of lives. At the same time, he has disparaged diplomatic efforts, including the talks planned in late May between Mr. Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. He not only wants to abrogate the six-party deal that, since 2015, has significantly limited Iran’s nuclear program; he has called for bombing Iran instead. He has also maligned the United Nations and other multilateral conventions, as Mr. Trump has done, favoring unilateral solutions.

Over a 30-year career in which he served three Republican presidents, including as United Nations ambassador and the State Department’s top arms control official, Mr. Bolton has largely disdained diplomacy and arms control in favor of military solutions; no one worked harder to blow up the 1994 agreement under which North Korea’s plutonium  program was frozen for nearly eight years in exchange for heavy fuel oil and other assistance. The collapse of that agreement helped bring us to the crisis today, where North Korea is believed to have 20 or more nuclear weapons.

The editorial goes on to show how often Bolton dismissed diplomacy and US soft power to create a more peaceful world.  Instead,  the one well woven thread, was that we should use military action to support our objectives, no matter what the consequences were, including international condemnation.  As National Security Adviser, Bolton does not need congressional approval.

One last entry into the White House staff,  is  combative lawyer Joseph diGenova, replacing John Dowd.  As Trump explained, “I’m fucking do it my way”  which is never be defensive,  never apologize, but to launch an aggressive attack on those he considers in his way.   It is more of “do them harm before they can get going at you.”   DiGenova claimed the Russian investigation was all a big conspiracy,  and Donald Trump was being framed.  So, it’s fine to trash the Justice Department, FBI and CIA, as an acceptable defense.  And of course, the mainstream media.

So, we have a case of out with the good or not so bad,  Gen McMasters,  Rex Tillerson, Andrew McCabe, and I guess John Dowd,  and in with the bad to terrible,  John Bolton,  Mike Pompeo and Joseph DiGenova.

I have not added links to this story, as there are many editorials on the White House changes available on the Internet.  The month of May is looking to be particularly  bad, with both the North Korea summit and the Iran Nuclear Deal on the table.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s Letter

Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe has been fired two days before receiving his pension by AG Jeff Sessions.   His letter summarizes a chain of events in which he corroborates damaging testimony of FBI Director Comey, then  the president launches a vendetta against him, ultimately leading to his firing.  His reference to attacks against his family, are based on the Trump’s tweet (Dec 23, 2017):

“How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin’ James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $700,000 for wife’s campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation?” Trump tweeted on July 25, 2017.

The accusation is considered False by factcheck.org.  A  factcheck link is provided at the bottom of this blog, which shows this to be more Trump’s BS especially made for Fox News.  McCabe was called a “bad actor based on his behavior” by WH Press Secretary Sanders.

McCabe’s letter also confirms what some have claimed in the media –  he did not close down the Clinton investigation early, but  continued to investigate her emails against “people in DOJ who opposed it.”  So ironically, while Trump was claiming a Clinton investigation cover-up,  McCabe was doing just the opposite – a thorough investigation no matter how long it took, which likely helped Trump win the election.

So honesty, persistence and dedication to your job can get you ridiculed by the President and ultimately get you fired.

I believe Sessions was likely threatened by Trump, either to fire McCabe or be fired himself.   McCabe was leaving anyway, but stripping of his pension seems to add insult to injury.

McCabe’s Letter

I have been an FBI Special Agent for over 21 years. I spent half of that time investigating Russian Organized Crime as a street agent and Supervisor in New York City. I have spent the second half of my career focusing on national security issues and protecting this country from terrorism. I served in some of the most challenging, demanding investigative and leadership roles in the FBI. And I was privileged to serve as Deputy Director during a particularly tough time.

For the last year and a half, my family and I have been the targets of an unrelenting assault on our reputation and my service to this country. Articles too numerous to count have leveled every sort of false, defamatory and degrading allegation against us. The President’s tweets have amplified and exacerbated it all. He called for my firing. He called for me to be stripped of my pension after more than 20 years of service. And all along we have said nothing, never wanting to distract from the mission of the FBI by addressing the lies told and repeated about us.
No more.

The investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has to be understood in the context of the attacks on my credibility. The investigation flows from my attempt to explain the FBI’s involvement and my supervision of investigations involving Hillary Clinton. I was being portrayed in the media over and over as a political partisan, accused of closing down investigations under political pressure. The FBI was portrayed as caving under that pressure, and making decisions for political rather than law enforcement purposes. Nothing was further from the truth. In fact, this entire investigation stems from my efforts, fully authorized under FBI rules, to set the record straight on behalf of the Bureau, and to make clear that we were continuing an investigation that people in DOJ opposed.

The OIG investigation has focused on information I chose to share with a reporter through my public affairs officer and a legal counselor. As Deputy Director, I was one of only a few people who had the authority to do that. It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the Director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter. It was the type of exchange with the media that the Deputy Director oversees several times per week. In fact, it was the same type of work that I continued to do under Director Wray, at his request. The investigation subsequently focused on who I talked to, when I talked to them, and so forth. During these inquiries, I answered questions truthfully and as accurately as I could amidst the chaos that surrounded me. And when I thought my answers were misunderstood, I contacted investigators to correct them.

But looking at that in isolation completely misses the big picture. The big picture is a tale of what can happen when law enforcement is politicized, public servants are attacked, and people who are supposed to cherish and protect our institutions become instruments for damaging those institutions and people.

Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey. The release of this report was accelerated only after my testimony to the House Intelligence Committee revealed that I would corroborate former Director Comey’s accounts of his discussions with the President. The OIG’s focus on me and this report became a part of an unprecedented effort by the Administration, driven by the President himself, to remove me from my position, destroy my reputation, and possibly strip me of a pension that I worked 21 years to earn. The accelerated release of the report, and the punitive actions taken in response, make sense only when viewed through this lens. Thursday’s comments from the White House are just the latest example of this.

This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally. It is part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel’s work.
I have always prided myself on serving my country with distinction and integrity, and I always encouraged those around me to do the same. Just ask them. To have my career end in this way, and to be accused of lacking candor when at worst I was distracted in the midst of chaotic events, is incredibly disappointing and unfair. But it will not erase the important work I was privileged to be a part of, the results of which will in the end be revealed for the country to see.

I have unfailing faith in the men and women of the FBI and I am confident that their efforts to seek justice will not be deterred.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Link:

Trump Wrong About Campaign Donations

Russian meddling in the US Elections

Russia meddled in the United States 2016 elections.  This is no longer speculation.  Indictments from a grand jury have been handed down indictments on 13 Russian nationals.  I assume none will be extradited to the US for trial.   I have no idea if  trials in absentia are possible. Already, there has been a response from one indicted Russian, that these charges are absurd and that 13 Russians could hardly change the results of an election.  The indictments do not conclude the meddling changed election results.

There was an impact; it just can’t be assessed.     It was a small group of professionals who came here to influence our election, likely supported by a larger dedicated group in Russia.  I don’t know how many more Russians were involved within the US, who the Justice Department could not indite because they just don’t have sufficient evidence.  The Russians came here with cash to spend and I suspect most of it went to help Donald Trump.  Moreover, whatever their operatives were spending on the ground here, their Russian counterparts were likely spending much more on planning and directing as dirty a campaign as possible against Hillary Clinton.   Mueller does not need to identify the full extent of the Russian meddling to get indictments, just that significant expenditures were made.  A cool million probably satisfies this threshold.

The question which should be asked, is why Russia thought they could pull this off and sway the election in favor of Donald Trump?   I think you have to look at how few people really determine the outcome of a Presidential election.   Hillary Clinton lost Florida by 112,911 votes.  If she had won Florida, she would have a total of 256 electoral votes.  At that point, winning one or two  “swing states” would have put her over the top (270 electoral votes).   Clinton lost Pennsylvania by 44,262 votes, and  20 electoral votes she needed to secure victory.

How to influence the election in 2016 was obvious to Russians or anyone else following the US elections.  Florida was #1 swing state.  Northern Florida was predominately Republican and the more people who voted in the north, the better Trump’s chances of winning.   Dressing up a  woman in prison suit with a sign “Crooked Hillary” to get the media’s attention was perfect.  If the electorate only knew!

This is Mueller’s show.   No one really knows where his investigation is going, and his team as kept things pretty buttoned up, as they should be.   My take is Russia did a whole lot more, including working with Trump’s team before the election to get dirt on Hillary, through the email hacks.  We shall see.

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

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

The Nunes Memo: Basic documents

The likely release of the House Committee on Intelligence memo, as prepared by the Republican majority on the committee is absolutely wrong.   What is astoundingly wrong, is that neither the Justice Department nor the FBI were given adequate time to review the memo, prior to a vote of the committee to make it public.

The Deputy Attorney General met with White House officials to explain why release of the memo would be “extremely reckless” according to the New York Times.  The Department of Justice can not respond openly as the Russian investigation is proceeding.   Everyone who works in law enforcement know the importance of keeping information secret.  Until actual criminal charges are presented in court,  those individuals, be they Americans or foreign nationals, do not have the right to know what the bits and pieces of the  FBI or Department of Justice’s  “raw intelligence.”     The House Committee is undercutting the FBI and Department of Justice abilities to do their job – which is to catch individuals involved in criminal acts and present the case in court.

Trump has previously made wild  allegations on wiretapping:

@realDonaldTrump (March 4, 2017). “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing fois a und. This is McCarthyism!” (Tweet). Retrieved March 21, 2017 – via Twitter.
@realDonaldTrump (March 4, 2017). “Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!” (Tweet). Retrieved March 21, 2017 – via Twitter.
@realDonaldTrump (March 4, 2017). “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!” (Tweet). Retrieved March 21, 2017 – via Twitter.
@realDonaldTrump (March 4, 2017). “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”” (Tweet). Retrieved March 21, 2017 – via Twitter.

Since this came from the White House,  the FBI investigated the alleged wiretapping as claimed by Donald Trump and found zero evidence to support his accusations as per Wikipedia.

Representative Devin Nunes, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, vowed to investigate the [wiretap]  claim, later stating that the committee had found no evidence for Trump’s statement. At a House Intelligence Committee open hearing on March 20, 2017, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey stated that neither the FBI nor the Department of Justice (DOJ) possessed any information to support Donald Trump’s wiretapping allegations. Nunes stated on March 23 that the Trump administration’s communications might have been legally monitored during the transition period as part of an “incidental collection”.[1]

In a September 1, 2017 court filing, the DOJ declared that “both the FBI and NSD confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets.”[2][3] Later in the same month, CNN reported that the FBI wiretapped Paul Manafort in 2016–17, either during or after his tenure with the Trump campaign. Some commentators cited this report as vindication for Trump’s claims, while others noted that it did not confirm the accuracy of Trump’s original tweets, and that it is still unknown whether any surveillance of Manafort took place at Trump Tower.[4][5][6]

 

Washington, D.C.
FBI National Press Office
(202) 324-3691
January 31, 2018
FBI Statement on HPSCI Memo

The FBI takes seriously its obligations to the FISA Court and its compliance with procedures overseen by career professionals in the Department of Justice and the FBI. We are committed to working with the appropriate oversight entities to ensure the continuing integrity of the FISA process.

With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.

=======

House Representative Devin Nunes heads the House Intelligence Committee, investigating the Russian interference with the 2016 election.  While the memo itself is very brief,  documents that it relied on, particularly the application of a search warrant to the FISA for Carter Page were long (some applications go over 100 pages) and are based on many other classified documents.

The appropriate course of action would be not to release either the Republican or Democrat memos to the public.   If there were allegations of misconduct within  the Department of Justice,  this would be handled best by submitting these allegations to the White House and the Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

This is a mishandling of classified materials on US intelligence by an obviously partisan legislative group, and is shameful.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

A Google search on the Nunes memo.    I like this one because it is simply stating the facts.  Adam Schiff  said yesterday that the memo sent to the President had been changed after it was voted on in committee.  Wow.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/30/politics/cordero-nunes-memo/index.html

Trump’s Malicious Lies

He has attacked FBI Director Comey as a leaker of classified information, the acting Director as  Andrew McCabe as corrupt,  the head of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions and Rob Rosenstein of using poor judgment in the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.   His latest attacks have been against Robert Mueller,  accusing him of a unwarranted  investigation of the Russian meddling in the 2016 and ignoring the crimes of Hillary Clinton in dealing with the Russians.

Although the harshest attacks come from Trump himself on the actions of the Justice Department,  in other areas, Trump is touting the accomplishments of the Justice Department, particularly the war on drugs, and crack down on human trafficking and illegal immigration, without any mention of Jeff Sessions.

The head of the Justice Department and FBI can be fired at a moments notice without cause.  Director Jim Comey learned he had been fired from CNN news broadcast.  Andrew McCabe is no longer in the direct line of fire.   The new FBI Director, Christopher Wray began his job yesterday.   If he feels that Hillary Clinton broke the law during 2016, he is free to investigate this activity.  Investigations can be closed, then re-opened.

I did not include attacks on the Washington Post and the New York Times from their reporting.  I previously posted my reasons why the New York Times reporting should be trusted, and that the newspaper is thriving, not failing.

The most serious accusations are against Robert Mueller, because Trump will use this as a pretext to remove him.  Jeff Sessions is far from being weak. Here’s the headline from the front page of the New York Times, “Under Attack, Justice Dept. Pushes Ahead, Quietly Carrying Out Trump’s Agenda.”  It goes on how Jeff Sessions is at work by 6:15 am, and starts his day on a treadmill, and a bowl of instant oatmeal in the microwave.  He hand-washes the bowl.

So, what were the malicious lie told by Trump?  It is the uranium story.  All fact checkers I know (Snopes.com, Politifact.com and factcheck.org find the essential details in  Trump’s narrative are false.    Here it is (snopes.com):

Allegations of a “quid pro quo” deal giving Russia ownership of one-fifth of U.S. uranium deposits in exchange for $145 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation are unsubstantiated.

No US uranium can be exported to Russia, not before the deal and not afterwards.  Russia may have an interest in US uranium mines, but Russia doesn’t get any uranium from the US.   The “quid pro quo” is simply a polite way of saying that Russia bought Hillary’s support, by slipping 145 million to the Clinton Foundation.    The whole story falls apart because the bulk of the  contributions were made in 2007, long before the buyout of Uranium One.

The whole uranium story should have fallen apart long ago because the timeline is all wrong.  The Snopes article states:

Of the $145 million allegedly contributed to the Clinton Foundation by Uranium One investors, the lion’s share — $131.3 million — came from a single donor, Frank Giustra, the company’s founder. But Giustra sold off his entire stake in the company in 2007, three years before the Russia deal and at least 18 months before Clinton became secretary of state.

Nobody is above the law.  Hillary Clinton, her staff and the Clinton Foundation must play by the rules.   I particularly like the way Snopes concluded the piece:

An enormous volume of interest and speculation surrounds the workings of the Clinton Foundation, which is to be expected. Given the enormous sums of money it controls and the fact that it is run by a former U.S. president who is married to a possible future U.S. president, the foundation deserves all the scrutiny it gets, and more.

At the same time, for the sake of accuracy it’s crucial to differentiate between partisan accusations and what we actually know about it — however little that may be.

This was published in October 2016, as Trump was storming the country with “Crooked Hillary” narratives.  Now the attacks have turned to Robert Mueller, as enemy number one.   He is directed to investigate Russian interference into the 2016 election, so he really can’t extend his investigation to a contribution received in 2007 by  Guistra  to the Clinton Foundation as payoff for a decision after he no longer had a stake in the company.   Whole narrative is really flaky.

I was very glad that no pardon was given to Hillary Clinton nor anyone in the White House or Clinton’s foundation before Obama’s departure.

Trump is trashing everyone who isn’t in the White House.  At least, isn’t currently in the White House. The heat is definitely on as Robert Mueller has convened a grand jury to examine criminal activities associated with Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

The latest Quinnipiac Polls show that most Americans do not trust Trump.  I wonder why?

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Fact check:  West Virginia Rally  (much more fiction than fact

Snopes.com  Russian to Judgment

(note the Brietbart connection, with Clinton Cash book in 2015)

West Virginia Rally- Trump: Politifact.com West Virginia Rally

The special counsel “should be looking at the … uranium (Hillary Clinton) sold that’s now in the hands of very angry Russians.”

Politifact on Uranium story

New York Times, 2015 article on the buyout transaction. 

 

 

 

Republican Posturing on the Mueller Investigation

You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA,” Trump tweeted last Thursday.

I don’t subscribe to Twitter.   I hope this is the last time I have to refer to anyone’s tweets.

Republican’s are posturing on questions about  Robert Mueller’s investigation.  Is it going to be impartial?  Is Trump going to be vindicated?

I believe the responses from Republicans follow  these approaches:  (1) Duck the question entirely,  (2) Call it a witch hunt or rigged investigation,  as if Democrats had wormed their way into Jeff Session’s Justice Department  or (3) State that the process must continue, it will be thorough and fair, and will vindicate  Trump.

First, how to duck the question. It is easy to  state,   “I’m not going there”, or “It’s far too early.”  Then add how special counsel in the past, such as Ken Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton, seemed to never end.

A variation on the first approach is to bring in a boat load of accusations made against Hillary Clinton,  and state that if an investigation is needed, it is of all the wrong doing by her.    Of course, Jeff Sessions can investigate Hillary Clinton or anyone he wants to.

The second way, the full frontal assault (Newt Gingrich approach) and  slam Mueller for hiring biased staff.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich believes special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is a “rigged game” because most of Mueller’s lawyers have donated to Democrats. On Tuesday, Gingrich criticized Mueller for not having pro-Trump attorneys on his team and addressed reports that three members of Mueller’s team have donated to Democrats. One lawyer even defended the Clinton Foundation. “He apparently couldn’t find a single pro-Trump attorney to hire, and I just think that’s a rigged game, and I think that it’s a mistake to pretend this is going to be some neutral investigation,” Gingrich said on CBS This Morning. “I don’t give the benefit of the doubt to somebody who could only hire Democrats but claims we ought to trust him.”

This claim of bias is obviously weak as observers say that Mueller is staffing up with an all star group of lawyers.     He knows Washington, and this is a super high stakes investigation.

The final approach is championed by Marco Rubio,  who I believe still has presidential aspirations.   Marco stated the following,  just after the Trump Cuban-American love fest for Fidel haters:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Sunday defended special counsel Robert Mueller’s “stellar” reputation and ability to “conduct a full and fair and thorough investigation” on possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

“I believe he is going to conduct a full and fair and thorough investigation that we should have confidence in,” Rubio told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I’ll continue to believe that based on his reputation and years of service to our country unless there’s any evidence to the contrary,” Rubio said.

Rubio’s comments contradict recent efforts by President Trump’s legal team to attack Mueller’s integrity as special counsel. The team is raising concerns that Mueller’s prior relationship with former FBI Director James Comey is a conflict in his ability to lead the investigation.

Trump’s legal team has left open the possibility Trump will fire Mueller as well.

Rubio also stated that he felt in the end, Trump would be cleared of any wrong doing.

Republicans can decide whether to go with Newt’s attack on Robert Mueller’s staff, or Rubio’s faith in the system.

During all this, the Democrats are probably best to say as little as possible.  They wanted an independent investigation, and they got one.  Beyond this, they should just keep their mouth shut about the ultimate outcome.  They should not respond to Trump’s persistent tweets.   If you are winning, don’t gloat.

It is exactly in line with Rubio, to just let the facts speak for themselves.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Comey’s testimony

The manner in which the Senate Intelligence Committee held its hearing was excellent.  I think the really critical point came, as one senator asked in essence, who should we believe?  Comey appeared at first to duck the question, then came back with an excellent reply, that in court, jurists rely on the totality of evidence before making a judgment.   The really critical meeting, now called the Valentine day meeting,  took place with only Comey and Trump present.   Comey says Trump said he hoped the FBI Director could let the Flynn investigation go.   Trump denies this discussion took place.   I believe Comey, just based on  Trump’s history.   But,  with just the two of them talking,  this is not going to be enough for impeachment or a criminal charge of obstruction of justice.   There was no follow-up by Trump to see the investigation of Flynn was stopped.

Now, my prediction.   The special prosecutor will charge Flynn with lying to FBI investigators, and numerous other offenses.  This will follow with a full presidential pardon for General Flynn.

Stay tuned,

Dave