Saturday, May 26, 2018

Refurbishing Russiagate

A fairly small dose today, apparently the Memorial Day weekend was already sapping Washington D.C.s vital juices yesterday.

Katie Pavlich at Town Hall: It's Official: Republicans Introduce Resolution for Second Special Counsel to Investigate FBI and FISA Abuse
Twenty-five House Republicans have introduced a resolution officially calling for a second Special Counsel to investigate FBI misconduct and FISA abuse during the 2016 presidential election.

"Here's the now filed 12 pg[page] H.Res.907 w[ith] 25 original cosponsors, detailing misconduct at highest levels of DOJ/FBI re FISA abuse, how/why Clinton email probe ended & Trump-Russia probe began. Also calls for 2nd Special Counsel," Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin tweeted Friday.

As mentioned, the legislation is twelve pages long and details two dozen reasons - including the handling of the criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton - why the Special Counsel is necessary.

"Expressing the sense of Congress that the Attorney General of the United States should appoint a Special Counsel to investigate misconduct at the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation, including an investigation of abuse of the FISA warrant process, how and why the Hillary Clinton probe ended, and how and why the Donald Trump-Russia probe began," the resolution states. "Whereas there is an urgent need for the appointment of a second Special Counsel in light of evidence that raises critical concerns about decisions, activities, and inherent bias displayed at the highest levels of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) regarding FISA abuse, how and why the Hillary Clinton email probe ended, and how and why the Donald Trump-Russia probe began."

"The concerns of the American people are serious and the issues requiring an immediate, unbiased, independent, and thorough investigation are broad," it continues.
And now off to the Senate to die in the arms of the Never-Trumpers. Kimberly Strassell, as filtered through Hot Air (the original WSJ article is paywalled, natch): The Real Constitutional Crisis
We are told that Mr. Trump cannot be allowed to have any say over the Justice Department’s actions, since this might make him privy to sensitive details about an investigation into himself. We are also told that Congress—a separate branch of government, a primary duty of which is oversight—cannot be allowed to access Justice Department material. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes can’t be trusted to view classified information—something every intelligence chairman has done—since he might blow a source or method, or tip off the president.

That’s a political judgment, but it holds no authority. The Constitution set up Congress to act as a check on the executive branch—and it’s got more than enough cause to do some checking here. Yet the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation have spent a year disrespecting Congress—flouting subpoenas, ignoring requests, hiding witnesses, blacking out information, and leaking accusations.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has not been allowed to question a single current or former Justice or FBI official involved in this affair. Not one. He’s also more than a year into his demand for the transcript of former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s infamous call with the Russian ambassador, as well as reports from the FBI agents who interviewed Mr. Flynn. And still nothing.
I want to know what Rosenstein knows, and when did he know it.  And speaking of oversight, Ace finally heard that The FBI Claimed it Redacted the Embarrassing Fact of Andrew McCabe Spending $70,000 of Taxpayer Money on a Conference Table Due to "National Security" Concerns and boy is he pissed, and he should be.
Obviously, we must believe everything the Deep State tells us.

They went to college and carry guns. Ergo, all college-proud Republicans are duty-bound to believe everything they say. (Oh, and also: Tribalism is bad when you do it.)
Andrew Egger at the Weekly Standard: Why Is Devin Nunes So Quiet?
It’s possible that Nunes’s silence indicates that the Justice Department briefing laid out a compelling case for why the FBI was justified in surveilling the Trump campaign—given that he’s spent a year muttering ominously about partisan pettifoggery at the DOJ, it’s hard to imagine Nunes sprinting to the nearest microphone to call off the dogs. Then again, it’s equally possible that even in the Thursday briefing, the Justice Department did not open their books to Nunes’ satisfaction: President Trump on Wednesday declined to say whether he had actually ordered DOJ to release all the documents the House Intelligence Committee had subpoenaed. “I want them all to get together and I want them—because everybody wants this solved,” Trump said then. “I want them all to get together. They’ll sit in a room. Hopefully they’ll be able to work it out among themselves.”

One other possibility: Nunes might have elected not to put much emphasis on this particular meeting given the way the White House rolled it out, mixing up the list of invited lawmakers over the day leading up to the briefing after Democrats howled about the impropriety of holding private briefings for a single party. (The Justice Department ultimately held two consecutive classified meetings: One for Nunes and fellow Intel Republican Trey Gowdy, and one for the so-called “Gang of Eight,” the bipartisan group of congressional leaders who are regularly briefed on classified intelligence matters.)
John sexton at Hot Air: FBI Agent Who Interviewed Flynn Prepared To Testify He Appeared Forthcoming
Carter is framing this very carefully such that nothing too specific is being attributed to Pientka. However, the implication of that middle paragraph is that Pientka felt Flynn appeared forthcoming during the interview, i.e. he brought up facts that he had no way of knowing the FBI agents already knew about. That suggests he was telling the truth.

Why is this important?

As I pointed out earlier this month, there’s an ongoing disagreement between congressional Republicans and former FBI Director James Comey over what Comey told Members of Congress about that FBI interview with Flynn. The House Intelligence Committee says Comey told the House in a briefing last year “the agents…discerned no physical indications of deception. They didn’t see any change in posture, in tone, in inflection, in eye contact. They saw nothing that indicated to them that he knew he was lying to them.” That comes from a transcript of the briefing. Earlier this month, Sen. Grassley sent a letter which said Comey told Senators the same thing at a separate briefing. The Senate briefing was not transcribed but there was a law enforcement officer there taking notes. His notes indicated that Comey said the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn, “saw nothing that led them to believe [he was] lying.”

More recently, as part of his book tour media blitz, Comey has claimed that was all a misunderstanding of some kind. “I said something that people misunderstood, I don’t remember even intending to say that. So, my recollection is I never said that to anybody,” he told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. He said something nearly identical to Fox News’ Bret Baier.
Pardon General Flynn and indict Comey. From Wombat-socho's  "In The Mailbox: 05.25.18", Joe For America informs us that  Honest, Hard-Working Rank & File FBI Agents are Desperate To Testify Against Comey
Two lawyers, Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing are speaking with media to spread the news that there are numerous FBI agents, former and current who are looking forward to telling stories about life in the FBI under Comey.
. . .
The agents are waiting in the wings to let their stories be known, but are waiting for the Inspector General’s report to be release. Michael Horowitz has drafted a report on the FBI and the CIA’s meddling during the election cycle, and he is reportedly looking into information associated with Anthony Weiner.

The report was supposed to be out before the end of the month, but Horowitz has told Congress that he is still working on the final draft.

Once that report is released, the agents are expected to be subpoenaed for more information.
We'll see.  Known liar and leaker James Comey On “Spygate”: I Don’t Find It To Be Possible And I Know It Not To Be True, not shockingly CBS isn't keen on the Spygate story either Commentary: The plot against Donald Trump
It's easy to get the basic gist of the Deep State conspiracy theory, which posits that the FBI and CIA ginned up a devious plot to help Hillary Clinton and hurt Donald Trump. But there's an arch, coy, almost feline quality to the way these arguments are presented. The allegations are always cloaked for a later reveal.

And this is probably because the allegations are bonkers, and would sound that way to anyone not already primed to believe them.
But the vast right wing conspiracy against Hilldabeast was real, of course.  Phil Bump at WaPo asks an interesting question "If Trump’s team was colluding with Russia, why did it keep asking WikiLeaks for things?" To throw slow lefties off the scent, obviously! But quick lefties can see the Russian collusion everywhere, even in an animals entrails.

Also from Wombat-socho's  "In The Mailbox: 05.25.18", Powerline's Scott Johnson discusses Steven Calabresi's law article on why the Mueller appointment is unconstitutional (and provides a copy of the entire paper as well): On Mueller's Appointment
Steven G. Calabresi is the Clayton J. and Henry R. Barber Professor of Law at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. In an intriguing column for The Hill this week, Professor Calabresi gives a glimpse of “The mess Rod Rosenstein made.”

I was surprised by Rosenstein’s noncompliance with the Department of Justice’s own (very simple) regulations on the appointment of Special Counsel at the time he originally appointed Robert Mueller. Following Andrew McCarthy’s criticism of Rosenstein’s course of conduct, Rosenstein has tried to remedy the defects in Mueller’s appointment with a partially classified supplement and perhaps other measures. We remain in the dark.

Professor Calabresi argues that Mueller’s original appointment was not simply illegal. He argues that it was and is unconstitutional. His argument cuts to the core. In his Hill column Professor Calabresi concludes:
I am not aware of any prior deputy attorney general of the United States who has made as big and as consequential a mistake as has Rosenstein in his appointment of Robert Mueller. Not only has he violated Trump’s civil liberties and the rule of law by unconstitutionally giving Robert Mueller the powers of a principal officer without Mueller’s having been nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, he has undermined in the American people’s eyes the integrity of the Justice Department itself.
Professor Calabresi has set forth his analysis in the Opinion on the Constitutionality of Robert Mueller’s Appointment that he posted online at SSRN.
I'm nervous living in a country where whether you get prosecuted or not depends on the whims and political opinions of legal priests in robes. Speaking of which, the AP reports The Latest: Judge declines to throw out Manafort charges
Manafort had argued that he had been charged twice for the same offense of lying to the government and that the piling up of the charges could prejudice a jury against him.

But U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson says in a ruling that any harm to Manafort at this stage in his criminal case could be handled by "proper" jury instructions.

Jackson dismissed Manafort's motion without prejudice, allowing him to revisit it after his trial, scheduled for September.
A federal judge in Virginia has delayed the trial of President Donald Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III says in an order Friday that he's pushing back Manafort's trial on tax evasion and bank fraud charges because of a medical procedure involving a member of Ellis' family. Manafort's trial is now scheduled to begin July 24.

The judge is considering Manafort's challenge of special counsel Robert Mueller's authority.

Manafort argues that Mueller shouldn't have been able to prosecute him because the charges don't stem directly from Russian election interference. Prosecutors have countered that Mueller was specifically authorized to investigate Manafort for financial crimes and his political work in Ukraine.
Manafort may be a slime ball and a criminal, but Muellers behavior in this prosecution is disgusting, starting with a before dawn armed raid on his house, and picking op charges that DOJ had previously considered and then dropped.

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