Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Russiagate Rollercoaster

Buckle up like a fat woman on a rollercoaster, today's ride is long and bumpy: A couple of different important threads today, before getting to the Michael Cohen clown show. First, via Wombat-socho's "In The Mailbox: 05.16.18" Legal Insurrection informs us that the New York Times finally admits, yes, the FBI and DOJ spied on the Trump campaign: NYT Report Confirms Obama Administration’s FBI Spied on Trump Campaign
The New York Times confirms Trump’s claims, which have been frequently dismissed by major media outlets as kooky and conspiratorial, true. Under the Obama administration, the intelligence community DOJ officials spied on Trump’s campaign.

Operation “Crossfire Hurricane” is what they called it. It was a super double secret operation that only a handful of agents and DOJ officials were aware of.

Agents, “obtained phone records and other documents using national security letters — a secret type of subpoena” and “at least one government informant met several times with Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos.”

Of course, it's been obvious for a long time: Comey's FBI had a mole in Trumpworld, 'dirty dossier' firm boss told senators in secret 2017 grilling – and his lawyer insisted this year that he 'stands by his testimony' Ace: Sara A. Carter: Sources Tell Me the Spy, or Informant, Placed In or Near Trump's Camp Was Located in London, and It Involves Papadopolous, But Was Not Papadopolous Himself She said this on Hannity last night. She says she knows who it is, but declines to say yet. Andy McCarthy thinks the spy/informant will soon be outed.  We've seen the name a couple of times, See previous links to the Conservative Tree House for further hints. Also at the American Thinker: The Office of Net Assessment paid Stefan Halper...why?

Breitbart: Leakers to NYT Confirm FBI Ran Spy Operation Against Trump CampaignThe Protocols of the Elders of Spydom A fun read. Mark Levin breaks down the FBI’s secret ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ ‘cabal’ against Trump.  “They clear the decks for Hillary despite her serial felonies under the Espionage Act and then immediately genuflect and go after Trump with this secret cabal of FBI agents,” Levin remarked, “That’s what the New York Times has revealed tonight whether or not they realize it.”   KimStrassel: "1. So a few important points on that new NYT "Hurricane Crossfire" piece. A story that, BTW, all of us following this knew had to be coming. […]"
2. Biggest takeaway: Govt "sources" admit that, indeed, the Obama DOJ and FBI spied on the Trump campaign. Spied. (Tho NYT kindly calls spy an "informant.") NYT slips in confirmation far down in story, and makes it out like it isn't a big deal. It is a very big deal.

3. In self-serving desire to get a sympathetic story about its actions, DOJ/FBI leakers are willing to provide yet more details about that "top secret" source (namely, that spying was aimed at Page/Papadopoulos)--making all more likely/certain source will be outed. That's on them

4. DOJ/FBI (and its leakers) have shredded what little credibility they have in claiming they cannot comply with subpoena. They are willing to provide details to friendly media, but not Congress? Willing to risk very source they claim to need to protect?
John Sexton at Hot Air: Crossfire Hurricane: The Investigation Into Possible Trump Campaign Collusion With Russia
I’ve been over all of this before. I still can’t quite grasp why it’s so difficult for people to see this as wildly inappropriate. An FBI investigation is being compared to an insurance policy against that unlikely scenario that Trump wins the election. The clear implication is that the investigation will pay off if Trump wins. But who is the beneficiary of this payoff? In the case of a life insurance policy, it’s the bereaved family who hoped their loved one would live beyond 40 but took out the life insurance policy just in case. In the case of this investigation, it’s the people who hope Trump doesn’t win in November but want an insurance policy just in case he does.

Near the end of the story we finally get this gem:
In late October, in response to questions from The Times, law enforcement officials acknowledged the investigation but urged restraint. They said they had scrutinized some of Mr. Trump’s advisers but had found no proof of any involvement with Russian hacking. The resulting article, on Oct. 31, reflected that caution and said that agents had uncovered no “conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.”
The key fact of the article — that the F.B.I. had opened a broad investigation into possible links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign — was published in the 10th paragraph.

A year and a half later, no public evidence has surfaced connecting Mr. Trump’s advisers to the hacking or linking Mr. Trump himself to the Russian government’s disruptive efforts. But the article’s tone and headline — “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia” — gave an air of finality to an investigation that was just beginning.

Democrats say that article pre-emptively exonerated Mr. Trump, dousing chances to raise questions about the campaign’s Russian ties before Election Day.

So the Times admits that even 18 months after the election, Democrats have nothing to prove collusion. But we’re somehow supposed to bemoan the fact that Trump was exonerated before the election, despite the fact he still hasn’t been found guilty of anything all these months later?
The other major event was the release of the Senate report on the infamous Trump Tower meeting: Senate Releases Testimony Transcripts About Trump Tower Meeting
However, the release itself raises another question. Robert Mueller’s probe is going over the same turf, especially in regard to potential Russian contacts with the Trump campaign. Did Mueller sign off on this release? If he did, has he concluded his own investigation of Russian collusion? One key point in conducting parallel probes is not to have one investigation tip off potential witnesses to what others have told investigators. If Mueller is still working these angles and looking for witnesses, this release creates all sorts of headaches for the special counsel. If Mueller doesn’t care about this testimony becoming public, though, it suggests that the Trump Tower meeting doesn’t matter to the Russian-collusion track — and without the Trump Tower meeting, that track seems pretty narrow.
 Judiciary Committee Transcripts on Trump Tower Meeting Confirm It Was a Big Nothingburger
According to the transcripts, Trump Jr. said he was "skeptical" of the meeting from the get-go, telling the committee that Goldstone -- the publicist who set up the meeting at the behest of Agalarov -- actually apologized for wasting their time when it was over.

“In his e-mail to me, Rob [Goldstone] suggested that someone had official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary Clinton and her dealings with Russia and that the information would be very useful to the campaign,” Trump Jr. said, noting he was “skeptical" of the “colorful music promoter's" outreach.

“My skepticism was justified. The meeting provided no meaningful information and turned out to be not about what was represented,” Trump Jr. said. “The meeting was instead primarily focused on Russian adoptions, which is exactly what I said over a year later in my statement of July 8, 2017.”
. . .
Veselnitskaya told the committee in a written response that no information specific to Clinton was provided during the meeting.

Trump Jr. corroborated that, saying that the Russian lawyer did not provide any "dirt" on Clinton beyond “very generally something about individuals connected to Russia supporting or funding Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton or the Democratic National Committee."
AP spins it: Unapologetic Trump Jr.: Not troubled that I met with Russian  "Can't recall discussing Russia probe with father"

WaPo: Russia favored Trump in 2016 election, Senate panel says. I agree they favored him, because they expected him to lose, and they wanted to diminish President Hillary. But mostly, they just wanted to cause trouble. Mission accomplished.

Another finding from the Senate report in the news yesterday was the allegation that the Kremlin Used NRA to Help Trump in 2016 (Da Beast)
The NRA spent a record $30 million on Trump and the FBI is reportedly investigating whether any of the money came from Russia. U.S. law prohibits foreign money to be spent on elections.

Two Russian nationals figure prominently in the alleged scheme: Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Kremlin’s central bank, and his then-deputy Maria Butina.

Torshin met Donald Trump Jr. at the NRA’s 2016 convention in Kentucky and hosted an NRA delegation in Moscow in 2015. Torshin was previously accused by Spanish investigators of laundering money for Russian mobsters, an allegation he denied. (Last month he was sanctioned by the U.S.)
Dana Loesch KNOCKS OUT Dem Rep. Ted Lieu for trying to link NRA to Russia

If it really does trace to the Steel Dossier, we can safely ignore it unless some independent evidence comes to light. Old news: NPR’s NRA-Russia Collusion Story Is A Complete Joke.
This document (also known as a “letter”) prompted headlines that ranged from “The NRA received donations from Russian nationals” to “NRA discloses additional contributions from Russian donors.” All of which probably sounded pretty damning to anyone who didn’t read past a headline. Those who did, on the other hand, would soon learn that Russian “nationals” meant 23 “Russian-linked” individuals — some of them Americans citizens living in Russia — who had contributed around $2,300 total, mostly in membership dues, over three years’ time. Approximately $525 of that sum came from “two individuals who made contributions to the NRA.”

According to Rudy Giuliani, Mueller's team told Trump's lawyers they can't indict a president, disappointing democrats all over. Giuliani: Mueller’s Team Admitted To Me They Can’t Indict Trump
Let’s game this out a little further, assuming Giuliani’s accurately passing along what he’s been told by the special counsel. If Mueller believes he’s constrained from seeking an indictment, that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t found indictable actions. If he reports such to Congress, it will heighten pressure on the House to act in some regard to any If they haven’t found any indictable actions, then their report is going to be one of the biggest political anti-climaxes since, well … the last special counsel investigation.
Here one the 1 year anniversary of the Mueller probe: Trump team ready to ‘pressure’ Mueller WaPo: Trump voters warn him not to fire Mueller: ‘People would be suspicious’. Well, the people who already are, at least. WaPo: Mueller investigation enters Year Two: What comes next — and how it could end "Mueller still hasn't answered the biggest question: Did the Trump campaign coordinate with Russia to influence the 2016 election?"

Mueller plays lawyer tricks with the Russian's lawyers: Lawyer for Russian company says Mueller's office slow to hand over evidence, but be careful what you wish for:  Mueller Wants To Flood Russian Collusion Case With 2 Terabytes Of Russian Social Media Content Without Translation. If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, bury them in bullshit. WaPo: Russian firm tied to Putin ally, charged in 2016 trolling campaign, clashes with Mueller probe
Initial hearings in criminal cases are typically scheduling exercises to prepare for trial, but Wednesday’s proceedings veered into political theater, as lawyers for a Kremlin-linked company hit by U.S. economic sanctions accused prosecutors of lying and cursed loudly after speaking with them once the hearing ended.

The hearing offered a sign of Concord’s Washington-based lawyers’ intent to use their case to exact a price for the indictment, such as through a scorched-earth defense that consumes government resources and prods prosecutors to make embarrassing or security-sensitive revelations, some legal experts said.
And onto the Michael Cohen follies: First, news via Ronan Farrow that Michael Cohen's financial data was leaked by a "law enforcement officer": Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records
The report also refers to two previous suspicious-activity reports, or sars, that the bank had filed, which documented even larger flows of questionable money into Cohen’s account. Those two reports detail more than three million dollars in additional transactions—triple the amount in the report released last week. Which individuals or corporations were involved remains a mystery. But, according to the official who leaked the report, these sars were absent from the database maintained by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or fincen. The official, who has spent a career in law enforcement, told me, “I have never seen something pulled off the system. . . . That system is a safeguard for the bank. It’s a stockpile of information. When something’s not there that should be, I immediately became concerned.” The official added, “That’s why I came forward.”

Seven former government officials and other experts familiar with the Treasury Department’s fincen database expressed varying levels of concern about the missing reports. Some speculated that fincen may have restricted access to the reports due to the sensitivity of their content, which they said would be nearly unprecedented. One called the possibility “explosive.” A record-retention policy on fincen’s Web site notes that false documents or those “deemed highly sensitive” and “requiring strict limitations on access” may be transferred out of its master file. Nevertheless, a former prosecutor who spent years working with the fincen database said that she knew of no mechanism for restricting access to sars. She speculated that fincen may have taken the extraordinary step of restricting access “because of the highly sensitive nature of a potential investigation. It may be that someone reached out to fincen to ask to limit disclosure of certain sars related to an investigation, whether it was the special counsel or the Southern District of New York.” (The special counsel, Robert Mueller, is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. The Southern District is investigating Cohen, and the F.B.I. raided his office and hotel room last month.)
So now we know that "law enforcement officers" are breaking the law to leak against Trump. Meanwhile, Cohen appears to be up to his eyeballs in attempted use of the Trump name for personal gain: FBI Agents Said To Be Probing Michael Cohen’s Deal With Korean Firm, Cohen Asked Qatari Investor For Millions To “Pass To Trump Family Members.” Allegedly. I see Michael Cohen as the equivalent of some plant fungi, which live in and around and feeds off their hosts, but also provides some nutrition.

Trump DID reimburse Michael Cohen after 'expenses were incurred' – as he admits paying back up to $250,000 to lawyer who reached 'hush' agreement with Stormy Daniels
President Donald Trump revealed in his financial disclosure form that he reimbursed Michael Cohen for loans of between $100,00 and $250,000 – paying back for 'expenses' the man who says he paid porn star Stormy Daniels.

The form notes that 'expenses were incurred by one of Donald J. Trump's attorneys,' and Trump disclosed it 'in the interest of transparency.' It was contained in a line beneath a section where large bank loans of as much as $50 million were listed.

The disclosure comes after Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said on television that Trump reimbursed Cohen for the payment after Cohen made it on his own to try to keep the Stormy Daniels claim from coming out, then walked back the statement.
Still not addressing whether Trump knew of it in advance. Triggering Ethics Referral To DOJ

UPDATE: Porn Star Lawyer Interviewed 147 Times in 10 Weeks, Well, at least Stormy isn't paying for his time, right? Is Stormy Daniels Getting Her Money's Worth From Attorney Michael Avenatti? Better question, is George Soros getting his money's worth? 

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