The investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is not the only major investigation in progress.
There are now three major Congressional probes of the Obama-era FBI, Department of Justice, and intelligence agencies. They are slowly peeling away layers of political bias, unequal application of the law, and, perhaps even felonies by senior officials who may have leaked classified documents, obstructed justice, and violated Fourth Amendment guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure.
These Congressional probes are not mere diversions, as Democrats charge. They have serious, legitimate intentions and raise troubling questions.
Why did former FBI Director James Comey and his team pre-judge and soft-soap the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s unsecured private server and her classified emails?
Why did they decide to clear her before completing key interviews with Mrs. Clinton and her aides?
Why did DOJ grant immunity so freely to obtain evidence that could have been easily subpoenaed by a grand jury?
Why did the government itself then destroy that evidence, so no one could do a real investigation later?
For that matter, why didn’t they convene a grand jury in the first place, as Mueller did almost immediately?
What involvement did the FBI counter-intelligence division have with the FusionGPS, Christopher Steele “Russian dossier,” financed by the Clinton campaign?
Was the dossier used, in part, to obtain a warrant to spy on Trump associates and, if so, was the FISA court completely informed about the dossier’s financing, provenance, and lack of verification?
And what the hell happened to months of text messages among key anti-Trump investigators at the FBI and DOJ?
VERY important questions. The public deserves answers.
That’s why these investigations are at least as important as Mueller’s, and for the same reason. They are both about honest elections and the rule of law, applied equally to insiders and outsiders, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.
It’s about whether our most powerful government agencies are worthy of our trust. If we have lost sight of those values, we’ve lost our Constitutional bearings.
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Roy Moore abandoned by national Republicans as more women accuse him
Comment: With such a thin margin in the Senate, Republicans need the Alabama seat to pass legislation (not that they have done so, yet), but individual office holders cannot afford to back him. And they are absolutely right, ethically, to back away from this sleazebag.
Unfortunately for Republicans, Moore owes them nothing, so they have no leverage to force him out of the race.
Trump and his Press Secretary will have to answer the question, an awkward prospect.
A write-in candidacy might win, but it’s a long shot.
That would mean immediate and nasty hearings to unseat Moore, with the prospect of further public humiliation. When he contemplates that, he might decide to back out. If he does, the Governor would probably postpone the election–over strenuous Democratic objections and lawsuits.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, showed selective recall on the Trump campaign’s Russia contacts.
Mr. Sessions said he had “no reason to doubt these women” who have accused the man who wants his old Senate seat, Roy S. Moore, of seeking sexual or romantic favors from them as teenagers. –New York Times
Comment: There seems to be enough smoke here to warrant a serious investigation. If so, then it should be conducted by a Special Counsel, not the DOJ for several reasons. The most important, by far, is this:
Any investigation of political opponents by law enforcement carries the heavy burden of perceived unfairness. Supporters of the opposing party (or candidate) will fear that the state’s power to investigate and punish is being used to crush opposition. That should never happen in a democracy. Even if the investigation is fair, it must be perceived as fair.
While Sessions and other political appointees could–and would–say that the task has been delegated to “career professionals,” they would have to sign off on any recommendations to charge. Again, their opponents could not be confident the process was fair and impartial.
Bottom line: Appoint a Special Counsel to investigate Uranium One, the Clinton Foundation, and the botched FBI investigation of the Clinton email server, including James Comey and Loretta Lynch’s roles.
[Tony] Podesta has long been a larger than life figure on K Street, growing his business from a boutique firm into a massive lobbying and public relations operation. He is well known for his flashy dressing, vast art collection, generous campaign donations across all levels of Democratic politics and, of course, for his brother John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. –Politico
This comes after ‘Rent’ star Anthony Rapp gave an interview claiming that a then-26-year-old Spacey tried to sexually assault him when he was 14 in 1986
Spacey responded to that allegation with a rambling statement in which he said he did not recall the incident, apologized to Rapp and then came out as gay.
‘I am sorry that Kevin only saw fit to acknowledge his truth when he though it would serve him — just as his denial served him for so many years,’ said Zachary Quinto. –Daily Mail
Comment: There are two separate issues here.
One is despicable, if Spacey actually did what he is accused of, namely sexual assaults, especially against children.
The other is openly gay actors attacking Spacey for not coming out earlier as gay. That is a completely distinct issue. They want to build support for open declaration of their sexual orientation. On the other hand, he has a personal right to privacy.
The privacy versus openness issue is interesting and debatable.
The sexual assault allegation are not. They should be investigated for criminal activity. Spacey gave a non-denial apology, saying he didn’t remember, might have been drunk, etc. (I would note that, if he did indeed proposition youngsters, there may well be other instances, which can be investigated.)
Those who say “we all knew” were morally (if not legally) complicit if they knew about assault allegations.
Coming out as gay at a moment when he is being accused seems like throwing dust in the air, trying to obscure the truly serious allegation.
Story #1: Huge stories about the Russian dossier and its Kremlin sources, all financed by the Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee, with all the senior people denying any knowledge. The publications are normally friendly to Democrats so they cannot trash them as political opponents. Nor has the story been denied, at least not anymore. The Clinton people and their lawyer lied about it for a year. Now they are simply silent.
Story #2: Huge stories about Russian bribery and corruption surrounding the purchase of a US company, Uranium One, while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. While the purchase was being attempted (and USG approval sought), Bill received large speaking fees from the Russians. Later, board members of the purchasing company gave the Clinton Foundation $140 million. Most (all?) were first-time donors.
The FBI not only kept their criminal investigation of Russian malfeasance in this purchase under wraps, they put a key inside witness under a multi-year gag order. Once the story of the gag order broke this week, pressure build for its removal amid a new Congressional investigation.
ON ALL THESE MAJOR ISSUES INVOLVING THE CLINTONS, TOTAL SILENCE FROM BILL AND HILLARY.
I assume the Clintons are now working out carefully-crafted and slippery statements with a team of lawyers. They will release a written statement once they have done so.
Don’t expect any interviews with them on Sunday Talk Shows.
Their silence during this story is striking. Frankly, given the accusations of corruption, illegality, deceit, and pay-to-play that have followed them for years, they should have clear standard operating procedures for denying everything.
Kudos to CNN for spin beyond the call of duty
The FBI and DOJ finally gave a partial release from non-disclosure to the eyewitness to the bribery and corruption associated with the Uranium One transaction. It was inexcusable that the gag order had lasted for years, with no clear law-enforcement purpose at this time.
The Trump White House apparently communicated to DOJ that they thought the witness should be allowed to speak to Congressional investigators. (Refusing that would have set up a constitutional question.)
CNN’s take, repeated multiple times during the day: This is all Trump efforts to divert attention from his possible collusion with the Russians.
Impressive to see a news organization so committed to its political spin that it actually opposes disclosure and testimony. Until now, I had never seen it.
The revelation that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for the “Russian dossier” from Fusion GPS is a bombshell.
Fusion fought tenaciously to avoid any disclosures about who paid for the document and which sources they used.
They are still fighting to prevent any examination of bank records that would show others, besides the Clintons and DNC, who might have paid them for this work.
(Side note: Democrats say that a “Republican donor” hired Fusion GPS before the Democrats did. Perhaps. But there is no actual evidence so far that any Republican donor actually did hire them. Whether he did or not, the alleged anti-Trump, Republican donor was only seeking ordinary opposition research. He had bowed out once Trump’s nomination was certain, so he was not involved in the Russian dossier scandal. Only the Clintons and DNC were involved in hiring foreign nationals and seeking information from insiders in a hostile foreign power for use in an American political campaign.
When asked who paid them and other questions last week by Congress, Fusion GPS executives pleaded the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. That is their right. But we are not jurors in a courtroom; we can draw our own conclusions. Mine is that the executives believe they have real criminal exposure.
Not only do we know the Clinton Campaign and their allies paid for the dossier, we know they lied about doing so. That includes outright lies from the lawyer who served as the Clintons’ cutout for payments to Fusion GPS. (The Clinton campaign hired a lawyer to commission the dossier so their purchase could be hidden behind attorney-client privilege and so they could hide all the payments to Fusion GPS under the misleading–and possibly illegal–line item FEC disclosure of “legal services.” At the very least, their behavior is sleazy and deceptive. What else is new?)
Here’s how NYT reporters responded after learning they had been lied to.
Russia’s Role in the Steele Dossier
But lies are only the beginning.
What is most troubling is how the Fusion GPS oppo research became a vehicle for Russian interference in US political and judicial processes.
We know Fusion GPS hired a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, to compile the dossier. Steele, who once headed the Russia desk at MI6, got his information from shadowy sources in Moscow, who gave him information allegedly compiled by Russian police and intel agencies.
There is a strong possibility those sources and their information were part of the Kremlin’s ongoing disinformation campaign, designed to interfere in the US election. The fact that Steele came a-calling was a golden opportunity to insert this information into the heart of the US political system. As it turned out, it was also inserted into the US criminal justice system when the dossier was shared with the FBI.
Of course, we know the Kremlin meddled in the US campaign. It is likely (though not certain) that some of the false information in the Steele/Russia dossier was part of that effort.
After Fusion GPS completed the dossier, they gave it to the Democrats who paid for it, presumably through the middleman lawyer who served as a cutout. Then, somehow, the dossier makes its way to the CIA and FBI.
At James Comey’s FBI, the dossier prompts a full-scale investigation. Apparently, the FBI also considered working with Steele–and paying him–to get more information from Moscow. (It’s really too bad the US doesn’t have some sort of government agency to get this kind of secret information in foreign countries.)
There is still a lot we don’t know. But we can reasonably conclude that opposition research using foreign nationals, secretly financed by a political party, and almost-certainly buttressed with disinformation from a hostile foreign power was introduced into a US election campaign and used as justification for a federal investigation of US citizens.
It is not clear if any FISA warrants were based on this dossier or if it prompted the Obama administration to do its wholesale unmasking of US citizens. We hardly know anything about the FBI’s role because it has stonewalled Congressional investigators, who have sought key documents for over two months without any response.
We do know that, after Trump was inaugurated, the intel agencies asked to give him a special briefing on the dossier. Using that briefing as a news hook, one of the agencies then immediately (and illegally) leaked information about the dossier to the press, yet another disturbing development in this saga.
This whole episode reveals the darkest underbelly of American politics and foreign interference in it. It is potentially a huge scandal–and one that involves the very agencies that normally investigate such scandals.
It has a rich vein of irony, too. The Clintons and the Democrats have insisted, rightly, that all Russian meddling in our elections be investigated. They have claimed, without proof, that the Russians not only meddled, they collaborated with Donald Trump. Now, it turns out it was the Clinton campaign that was the major conduit for Russian influence–a tale worthy of Wile E. Coyote.
It is essential that Congress investigate all aspects of this issue, which involves the FBI and CIA as well as the Clintons and the DNC.
It merits a criminal investigation, too, as does the tsunami of corruption and coverup surrounding the Uranium One deal (which directly involves the Holder DOJ and Mueller FBI, as well Sec. Clinton).
Attorney General Sessions should appoint a Special Counsel.
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ There are three stories today about Russia’s involvement in US politics, and all three are bad for the Democrats
How big the stories become–how serious the resulting scandals–depends on additional investigation and investigative reporting.
◆ Story #1: That scandalous, largely-discredited “Russian Dossier,” which led to the federal investigations of the Trump Campaign, was financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary’s Campaign
The Washington Post broke the story (link here) They report that the Clinton campaign, using a Washington lawyer as a cutout, retained Fusion GPS to do the dirty work. Fusion GPS has fought strenuously to prevent any disclosure of who paid them and invoked their 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Congress.
The Clinton campaign, like others, used a lawyer to hire these contractors so their communications would be protected by attorney-client privilege.
The Clinton people have never acknowledged a connection to Fusion GPS or the dossier.
◆ Story #2: Mueller’s Russia Probe turns toward key Democratic insiders
Paul Manafort is also a major target but, according to reports, this top Republican operative worked closely with the Podesta Group, closely aligned with the Clintons.
A thus-far-reliable source who used to be involved with Clinton allies John and Tony Podesta told Tucker Carlson that press reports appearing to implicate President Trump in Russian collusion are exaggerated.
The source, who Carlson said he would not yet name, said he worked for the brothers’ Podesta Group and was privy to some information from Robert Mueller’s special investigation.
While media reports describe former “Black, Manafort & Stone” principal Paul Manafort as Trump’s main tie to the investigation, the source said it is Manafort’s role as a liaison between Russia and the Podesta Group that is drawing the scrutiny.
The “vehicle” Manafort worked for was what Carlson called a “sham” company with a headquarters listed in Belgium but whose contact information was linked to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. –Fox News
Comment: National news media have not reported this news.
◆ Story #3: Russian bribery, money-laundering, speaker fees to Bill Clinton, and over $100 million to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Sec. of State and the Russians were federal approval to buy US uranium assets
Actually House Republicans announced two new investigations (link here):
In the first of two back-to-back announcements, the top Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees said they would formally examine the Obama Justice Department’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails. Less than an hour later, Republicans from the Intelligence and Oversight Committees said they were opening a separate inquiry into the administration’s approval of a 2010 agreement that left a Russian-backed company in control of much of the United States’ uranium. –New York Times
Comment: The NYT story downplays the significance and suggests it is all simply partisan squabbling about a now-departed administration.
I think they underestimate the possible ramifications of both investigations.
The Uranium One deal is a particularly thorny issue for the Clintons and the Obama Administration because Obama’s FBI and DOJ knew of Russian bribery and other criminal activity before the deal was approved. Congress was not informed, as it should have been. Their objections might have blocked the deal. The public was kept completely in the dark. Mueller was head of the FBI at this time. One of the Russians reportedly involved in this illegal activity was given a US visa twice during this period by Hillary’s State Department. One major question is whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from these Russia issues, will appoint a Special Counsel to investigate this and perhaps the Clinton emails, where then FBI-director Comey wrote a memo clearing Hillary long before key witnesses had been interviewed.
The most important implication: The FBI (under Mueller) looks to be deeply compromised.
◆Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will not run for re-election. He and Sen. Bob Corker (D-TN), who is also retiring, lacerated Pres. Trump in speeches, interviews, and social media. Their rebukes are reported here(Reuters)
Flake’s attack was on Trump’s conduct and dishonesty. Flake’s actual voting record is very supportive of Trump legislation.
Flake, who has very high disapproval numbers in his home state, was likely to lose his primary contest.
All seven members of the Party’s Standing Committee were in their 60s. Rising stars in their 50s were not included.
Comment: The absence of an heir-apparent, Xi’s cult of personality, and his name’s inclusion in the party constitution all raise speculation he might eventually seek a third-term, which had been ruled out after Mao’s death.
“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” [Prof. Rochelle] Gutiérrez argued [in a book aimed at K-12 math teachers].
Truly, you cannot make this up. Here’s what the professor writes:
If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she says, adding that there are so many minorities who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”
To fight this, Gutiérrez encourages aspiring math teachers to develop a sense of “political conocimiento,” a Spanish phrase for “political knowledge for teaching.”
Comment #1: Please note, Prof. Gutiérrez thinks it is rank racism to judge people in a math class on whether they can reason abstractly. In fact, math is abstract reasoning.
Comment #2: Why, Professor, does all this whiteness and white privilege in math not seem to hold back Asians and Asian-Americans in US math classes? This is not a trivial issue or mere debating point. Note, too, that many of the Asian-American students come from lower-income families. Hmmmm.
Comment #3: Gutiérrez is a professor of education, where this kind of political blather, masquerading as scholarship, is commonplace. Poor scholarship and political propaganda are major problems in Ed Schools across the country. So is the soft curriculum, which leads to adverse selection (namely, compared to other students, those who major in education consistently have some of the lowest SATs and lowest GPAs outside their majors).
I remember all the justified complaints by feminists when a Barbie doll said, “Math is hard.” They said, rightly, that the comments were demeaning to women and sending the wrong message to girls. Sorry to see Prof. Gutiérrez sending the same message to minorities and dressing up in the costume of social justice.
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Tax Cuts, Tax Reform gaining momentum
The Senate passed a Budget Resolution, the essential prelude to any effort to pass tax reform. Without the resolution, the tax bill could be stopped unless it had 60 votes. With the resolution, it needs 50 votes.
Analysis: Whether it can get 50 votes depends on the details, which will affect different states, income groups, and economic sectors differently.
Ending the deduction for state and local taxes, for example, hurts high-income people in high-tax states. That could cost Republican House votes if they represent such districts. (Most analysis misses the point that the state taxes hit high earners more so Republicans from middle-class districts might not be affected.)
Giving everyone a large standard deduction sounds great . . . except to the residential real-estate industry, which thinks it will render mortage deductions meaningless for many middle-income buyers.
Plus, we don’t yet know the breakpoints between tax brackets, so the impact on middle-income families cannot be forecast accurately.
Politically, the Republicans must pass tax cuts. Whether they must pass larger reforms is less obvious. But even “must pass” legislation is a problem for this bunch.
Since the testimony was behind closed doors, it is unclear if she knew or assented to the requests, if she knows who made the requests, or if “masking” an unmasking request is itself illegal. It is certainly unethical.
Comment #1: This massive unmasking for what seems like political purposes by the Obama Administration is not only a scandal in its own right. It will have real effects on national security if it blocks the renewal of FISA court authority, which must be done soon.
Comment #2: It has also been reported that the FBI and DOJ knew about Russian bribery to obtain uranium ownership during the Obama years, when Hillary Clinton was Sec. of State. Bill Clinton was paid substantial funds personally for speaking to Russian entities at this time and the family foundation received vast sums (over $100 million) from investors with stakes in the transaction.
This investigation was not revealed to the heads of Congressional Intelligence Committee, as is required.
Moreover, this Russian scandal directly involves the FBI when it was head by . . . . Robert Mueller, now in charge of investigating Russian scandals.
The region’s president, Carles Puigdemont, did not renounce independence despite a Thursday deadline imposed by the central government.
The escalating confrontation between Madrid and Spain’s most prosperous region sent ripples of unease across the continent, where European Union leaders are already wary of fissures within the bloc.
Spain’s worst political crisis in nearly four decades of democracy could hamper a still fragile economic recovery in the country as a whole and cause particular financial harm to Catalonia, which is already experiencing a flurry of corporate flight. –Los Angeles Times
◆Comment on Presidents and Fallen Soldier in separate ZipDialog post(here)
A Russian nuclear executive, whose company was the target of an FBI investigation and who admitted to corrupt payments to influence the awarding of contracts with the Russian state-owned nuclear energy corporation, paid millions of dollars in consulting fees to an American firm in 2009 and 2010 to lobby the U.S. regulatory agencies and assist the Russian’s who were then attempting to acquire twenty percent of American uranium, according to court documents, a former FBI informant and extensive interviews with law enforcement sources.
Roughly $3 million in payments from 2010 to 2011 were made to APCO Worldwide Inc., which is described on their website as the second largest lobbying firm in the United States. The firm also provided in kind pro-bono services to Bill Clinton’s foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, services they begin 2007, according to APCO officials who spoke with Circa
and press releases from the company. It was during the same time that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was part of the Obama administration board that would eventually approve the sale of the U.S. uranium to Russia. –Sara A. Carter at Circa
NBC News is coming under increasing criticism for its failure to investigate why its embattled president, Noah Oppenheim, spiked a bombshell story that would have been the first to expose Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator.
An NBC spokesperson says the network is not investigating the matter, despite new revelations that Oppenheim sat at small table with Weinstein at an exclusive New York gala in April, when Oppenheim reportedly already knew that his reporter, celebrity scion Ronan Farrow, had obtained damning audio recordings in which Weinstein admitted groping the breasts of an Italian model. –Fox News (link here)
Scott Rosenberg worked with Weinstein and company for almost a decade:
“Everybody fucking knew,” he wrote (not once, not twice, but three times) in a lyrical, near novella-length Facebook response to those shrinking away from responsibility in enabling Weinstein’s behavior.
Hollywood’s general unwillingness to face the music of personal accountability for the rot in their own industry added insult to injury in the onslaught of allegations. Because those (seemingly) well-meaning yet spineless responses only ensure one thing: that this will keep happening. –Mashable
Comment: Mr. Rosenberg’s choice of words is certainly apt.
I just hope this little unpleasantness doesn’t keep Hollywood from preaching to the rest of us.
◆ John Kelly speaks eloquently about his son’s combat death, says he was “stunned” by a Congresswoman’s criticism of Pres. Trump’s condolence call
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Biggest story of the week is just under the radar: China’s Xi is consolidating his power to become most powerful leader since Mao
Comment: This week’s Party Congress, held every five years, is the moment when Xi will try to push aside many of the constraints installed after Mao to prevent one-man rule. He has already done a lot of that, installing his people in the military and using the anti-corruption campaign to remove adversaries (and leave political friends and family untouched).
By the end of the week, we’ll know if Xi has succeeded since some rule-breaking will be obvious by then (particularly waiving a rule that would require his political enforcer to retire because of age).
The FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.
Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.
They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill. –John Solomon and Alison Spann in The Hill
◆Austria’s new leader: very young (31), very opposed to floods of new immigrants(x)
Under Mr. Kurz, the staid, traditionally conservative People’s Party was refashioned into a social-media-savvy political movement that attracted hundreds of thousands of new supporters in a campaign focused on limiting immigration and strengthening the country’s social welfare system.
Kurz will need to form a coalition government.
The most likely coalition partner appeared to be the nationalist, populist Freedom Party, which initial results showed winning 27.1 percent of the vote. The party complained during the election campaign that Mr. Kurz had stolen its playbook, seizing on issues like limits to immigration and the threat posed to Austrian identity by Islam.–New York Times
Comment: Kim Jong Un’s desire for a deliverable nuclear arsenal is comprehensible as a defense for his regime. These kinds of threats are not comprehensible–or are badly misjudged. Presumably, they are trying to move the US off any military option. But Kim’s statements do highlight the very real danger of accident or inadvertent escalation.
◆Trump and McConnell show unity . . . at least for now
Comment: It is all tactical, and it’s all about the tax reform bill, which is essential politically for Republicans on the Hill.
They will also look for other areas to notch some wins, including judicial nominees, which have moved far too slowly through the Senate, as conservatives see it. Democrats have used every delaying tactic on the nominees and Republicans have let them get away with it.