Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Some Retail Russiagate

The Peacock admits, Senate has uncovered no direct evidence of conspiracy between Trump campaign and Russia. Notice how they couch it though, no "direct"evidence. As one Democratic aide said. "We were never going to find a contract signed in blood saying, 'Hey Vlad, we're going to collude'". Can you blame Town Hall from taking a slightly different more triumphant view: Shove It, Democrats: Senate Intelligence Committee Finds No Direct Evidence Of Trump-Russia Collusion
"If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don't have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia," said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in an interview with CBS News last week.

Burr was careful to note that more facts may yet be uncovered, but he also made clear that the investigation was nearing an end.

"We know we're getting to the bottom of the barrel because there're not new questions that we're searching for answers to," Burr said.

On Tuesday, Burr doubled down, telling NBC News, "There is no factual evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia."
Also joining the triumphalism  Trump Trolls MSNBC Over Senate Committee Finding No Evidence Of Collusion (John Sexton at Hot Air)

The Senate investigation was touted by the media as the more serious of the two Congressional investigations, with the House investigation being characterized as the "clown car", because it looked into allegations of how the FBI and DOJ bent (or smashed) the rules to open the intelligence/criminal investigations into Trump world. New that they have found nothing, Democrats will bad mouth the Senate report and promise that the many new House investigations with turn up something. Honest injun!

ABC: Former Trump lawyer slams Mueller probe, maintains president will be cleared: 'Knock it off and get it done'
The veteran criminal defense attorney who headed President Donald Trump's legal team during a crucial stretch of the special counsel investigation believes the entire affair will end in silence from special counsel Robert Mueller, and called the massive two-year probe into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign “a terrible waste of time.”

“I don't think there'll be a report,” John Dowd told ABC News in a wide-ranging interview for the premiere episode of "The Investigation," a new podcast focused on the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller. “I will be shocked if anything regarding the president is made public, other than ‘We're done.’”
And if that's what happens,  Americans view Mueller as more credible than Trump, but views of his probe are scattered (WaPoo), Democrats will be left with nothing more than partisan investigations in the House to lean on. Byron York, WaEx, Trump Tax Returns: House Dems Ready For Ultimate Fishing Expedition
Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, also a Ways & Means member, recently remarked that Mueller and his prosecutors have surely seen the returns and that it would be best for the House to proceed carefully. “I’d suspect that Bob Mueller and his team are looking at that already, and hopefully it’s part of a report that is submitted to us shortly,” Kind said.

That is precisely what worries some Democrats. What if Mueller investigates and does not accuse Trump of any wrongdoing based on the tax returns? Just in case, Democrats propose to perform their own “MRI” of Trump’s finances, based in large part on the tax returns.
And more on that Crazy Clinton email scandal, Fox News, FBI scrambled to respond to Hillary Clinton lawyer amid Weiner laptop review, newly released emails show. Well, they fully expected her to be then new boss, and not a very forgiving one at that.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air: Confirmed: FBI Offered State A Quid Pro Quo To Keep Hillary E-Mail Classification Quiet
Faced with a serious crisis in Hillary Clinton’s use of a secret and unauthorized use of a private e-mail system to transmit classified data, the FBI took action to, er … benefit the State Department? A newly released series of e-mails unveiled by a Judicial Watch FOIA action confirms that the FBI proposed allowing more legal attachés from State as a trade for changing the basis for withholding a classified Clinton e-mail:
Newly released internal FBI emails showed the agency’s highest-ranking officials scrambling to answer to Hillary Clinton’s lawyer in the days prior to the 2016 presidential election, on the same day then-FBI Director James Comey sent a bombshell letter to Congress announcing a new review of hundreds of thousands of potentially classified emails found on former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s laptop.
The trove of documents turned over by the FBI, in response to a lawsuit by the transparency group Judicial Watch, also included discussions by former FBI lawyer Lisa Page concerning a potential quid pro quo between the State Department and the FBI — in which the FBI would agree to downgrade the classification level of a Clinton email in exchange for more legal attache positions that would benefit the agency abroad. There was no indication such a quid pro quo ever took place. …
“Jason Herring will be providing you with three 302s [witness reports] of current and former FBI employees who were interviewed during the course of the Clinton investigation,” Page wrote. “These 302s are scheduled to be released to Congress in an unredacted form at the end of the week, and produced (with redactions) pursuant to FOIA at the beginning of next week.
Page continued: “As you will see, they describe a discussion about potential quid pro quo arrangement between then-DAD in IOD [deputy assistant director in International Operations Division] and an Undersecretary at the State Department whereby IOD would get more LEGAT [legal attaché] positions if the FBI could change the basis of the FOIA withhold re a Clinton email from classified to something else.”
This offer emerged almost two and a half years ago, but at the time the report suggested that the offer went in the other direction. The release last night confirms that the offer went from the FBI to the State Department, which the FBI acknowledged at the time. This makes more sense than the original narrative floated in October 2016, since the FBI has no authority to declassify material that it does not itself produce. In order to declassify State Department material, State would have to take that action itself. And if they did that, they wouldn’t need to bargain with the FBI to make it happen.
Jail is too good for them. Stocks and flogging would be better.

Shocking, the New Republic agrees with my assessment of the Maria Butina matter, The Spy Who Wasn't 
According to federal prosecutors, Butina’s graduate studies, and her relationship with Erickson, were just a cover; in reality she was a clandestine Russian agent sent to the United States to use sex and seduction to infiltrate conservative political circles and influence the White House’s policies toward Russia. Denied bail out of fear she might run to the Russian Embassy, or jump into an embassy car, she was charged with violating Section 951 of the U.S. Code: acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign power, as well as with a conspiracy charge associated with it. She is the only Russian arrested to date in the government’s ongoing investigation into the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

With anti-Russia fervor in the United States approaching levels directed at Muslims following the attacks of September 11, 2001, it was easy for prosecutors to sell the story of Butina as a spy to the public and the press. But is she really? Last February, Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Russia probe, indicted 13 Russian spies for interfering with the 2016 election. And in July, two days before Butina was arrested, Mueller charged twelve more Russians with hacking into email accounts and computer networks belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. It is not inconceivable that Butina is among their ranks.

Yet a close examination of Butina’s case suggests that it is not so. Butina is simply an idealistic young Russian, born in the last days of the Soviet Union, raised in the new world of capitalism, and hoping to contribute to a better understanding between two countries while pursuing a career in international relations. Fluent in English and interested in expanding gun rights in Russia, she met with Americans in Moscow and on frequent trips to the United States, forging ties with members of the National Rifle Association, important figures within the conservative movement, and aspiring politicians. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to do what I could, as an unpaid private citizen, not a government employee, to help bring our two countries together,” she told me.

The government’s case against Butina is extremely flimsy and appears to have been driven largely by a desire for publicity. In fact, federal prosecutors were forced to retract the most attention-grabbing allegation in the case—that Butina used sex to gain access and influence. That Butina’s prosecution was launched by the National Security Section of the District of Columbia federal prosecutor’s office, led by Gregg Maisel, is telling in itself: According to a source close to the Mueller investigation, the special counsel’s office had declined to pursue the case, even though it would have clearly fit under its mandate.

Despite the lack of evidence against Butina, however, prosecutors—abetted by an uncritical media willing to buy into the idea of a Russian agent infiltrating conservative political circles—were intent on getting a win. In the context of the Mueller investigation, and in the environment that arose after Trump’s election, an idealistic young Russian meeting with influential American political figures sounded enough like a spy to move forward.

“Look, I imagined I could be in prison in Russia. I could never imagine I could go to jail in the United States. Because of politics?” Butina told me over the phone a few weeks after she was taken into federal custody. It was one of a series of exclusive interviews I conducted with Butina, Erickson, and other prominent figures involved in the case, none of whom have spoken previously to the media. “I didn’t know it became a crime to have good relations with Russia—now it’s a crime,” she told me earlier. “They hate me in Russia, because they think I’m an American spy. And here they think I’m a Russian spy.”

“If I’m a spy,” she added, “I’m the worst spy you could imagine.”
It's always telling that they describe her as a "Russian agent", and not as an unregistered foreign lobbyist, which is what the charges actually consist of. Kudos to the the New Republic for the honesty.

Wombat-socho has Rule Five Sunday: Post-Valentine’s Day Pinup and FMJRA 2.0: Holiday In The Sun up and running.

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