Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Russiagate on Muellermas Eve

Tomorrow is the day we've all been anticipating with a mixture of glee and dread. CBS, How to watch special counsel Robert Mueller's congressional testimony Wednesday. From the Washington Times, Justice Department warns Mueller to stay on script at showdown hearing with Congress. Clearly obstruction, for a superior to order his worker how to do the job.
The Justice Department warned former special counsel Robert Mueller on Monday not to stray beyond the four corners of his already-released report when he comes to Capitol Hill this week to testify.

Associate Deputy Attorney General Bradley Weinsheimer, in a letter to Mr. Mueller, said that means any decisions Mr. Mueller made, or information he uncovered, that he didn’t include in his report will be out of bounds for the hearing.

The department also has a longstanding practice of not talking about people who were investigated but not charged, Mr. Weinsheimer said.
LA Times, Democrats hope Mueller’s testimony will make more Americans want to impeach Trump. Unlikely. Capt. Ed at Hot Air reports that WaPo, Politico: You Know Mueller-Mas Will Be A Bust (Again), Right?
And when Mueller says It depends on the context and intent as I wrote on page 344 paragraph 3, what then? The word “dud” does come to mind. Democrats had better be ready for the wave of ennui that sweeps across America everywhere except in the Beltway bubble.
Politico,  How Congress Can Exploit Mueller’s Legal Mistakes. What, Mueller made mistakes? I thought he was perfect!
To go by Mueller's previous statements, the hearings aren't likely to turn up new information about the Trump campaign. But they could genuinely change the trajectory of the Trump-Russia story, by drawing connections between the report and Mueller's earlier rounds of indictments, and also by highlighting Mueller's legal errors—the opportunities he didn't take, and why he skipped them.

But that's only possible with the right format. The hearings are almost guaranteed to be a waste of time if they stick to the format of disjointed five-minute rotating rounds of questions by elected members. This format has proved to be a failure in the high-profile hearings of the past two years. Time and again, just when a member starts to make headway with follow-up questions, time runs out. Republican members alternate with Democratic members who have totally different political agendas; real progress as the hearing continues is rare.
Sundance at CTH,  House Judiciary Chairman Nadler Discusses Purpose of Robert Muller Testimony This Week… Video at CTH.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and his staff (two hired from Lawfare) have been coordinating with the aligned DOJ/FBI special counsel group for several months for the upcoming appearance of Robert Mueller on Wednesday of this upcoming week.

The objective of the group’s coordinated plan has been to present a hearing that supports the original goal of the ‘small group’ effort, impeachment. Toward that goal Mueller has been working closely with Nadler’s staff who are coordinating Mueller’s appearance.

In this interview Nadler outlines the objective of Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff and himself to frame the Mueller testimony. However, it also appears that Nadler is generally blind to the amount of information in the public sphere which highlights the known illicit motives and foundation of the Weissmann and Mueller team.
It sounds like Fat Jerry is going to ask Mueller to read selected ominous passages from the report.

Byron York at WaEx, Democrats think they've got a slam dunk obstruction case against Trump. They don't. And then lays out why. Jerry Dunleavy at WaEx, 'This is our chance' to question Mueller’s 'one-sided report,' says top GOP lawmaker

In another mini-bombshell on the Russia investigation, John Solomon on Da Hill reveals How Mueller deputy Andrew Weissmann's offer to an oligarch could boomerang on DOJ
The ink was still drying on special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment papers when his chief deputy, the famously aggressive and occasionally controversial prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, made a bold but secret overture in early June 2017.

Weissmann quietly reached out to the American lawyers for Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash with a tempting offer: Give us some dirt on Donald Trump in the Russia case, and Team Mueller might make his 2014 U.S. criminal charges go away.

The specifics of the never-before-reported offer were confirmed to me by multiple sources with direct knowledge, as well as in contemporaneous defense memos I read.
Read it all for some world class sliminess by Weissman, the real driving force behind the Mueller team. Also a potential interesting line of questioning for Mueller.
Meanwhile, another big breaking story. From RCP's Paul Sperry, the original report Justice Dept. Watchdog Has Evidence Comey Probed Trump, on the Sly
. . . Sources tell RealClearInvestigations that Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz will soon file a report with evidence indicating that Comey was misleading the president. Even as he repeatedly assured Trump that he was not a target, the former director was secretly trying to build a conspiracy case against the president, while at times acting as an investigative agent.

Two U.S. officials briefed on the inspector general’s investigation of possible FBI misconduct said Comey was essentially “running a covert operation against” the president, starting with a private “defensive briefing” he gave Trump just weeks before his inauguration. They said Horowitz has examined high-level FBI text messages and other communications indicating Comey was actually conducting a “counterintelligence assessment” of Trump during that January 2017 meeting in New York.

In addition to adding notes of his meetings and phone calls with Trump to the official FBI case file, Comey had an agent inside the White House who reported back to FBI headquarters about Trump and his aides, according to other officials familiar with the matter.
Via the Wombat's In The Mailbox: 07.22.19, Power Line reports Comey Lied To & Spied On Trump
Although the “spying” angle may be the sexiest part of Sperry’s story, let’s not forget about the lying. It was part and parcel of the same treachery.

It looks like Comey didn’t want to tell Trump that he was under investigation because doing so might have hampered his ability effectively to spy on Trump. Yet, as a former FBI counterintelligence agent and lawyer told Sperry, the FBI lacked legal grounds to treat Trump as a suspect:
They had no probable cause against Trump himself for ‘collusion’ or espionage. They were scrambling to come up with anything to hang a hat on, but had found nothing.
We’ll have to wait for the issuance of IG Horowitz’s report before we can draw firm conclusions about the degree of Comey’s treachery. Some of it is already a matter of public record, but if the final report produces the additional “dots” described by Sperry, it will represent strike three against Comey and his fellow, like-minded Deep State operatives.
Ace, Paul Sperry at Real Clear Investigations: IG Horowitz is Set to Report That Comey Deliberately Lied to, Spied on President Trump, While Claiming In Congressional Testimony That There Was No Investigation Into Trump
Lying to your constitutional superior officer to undertake an illegal investigation into him is a fireable offense, of course, meaning Comey knew from the start that Trump was justified in firing him and his successful lobbying for a Special Prosecutor was unjustified and entirely self-serving.

But lying to Congress? That's criminal.

At least it's a criminal offense for those not members of the Inner Party.
And Capt. Ed at Hot Air, Oh My: IG Report To Allege Comey Lied To Trump — And Spied On Him
If Sperry’s sources are accurate, and if Horowitz can document all this, hoo boy. The allegation that Comey repeatedly lied to Trump about his status in Comey’s probe may not be impossible to explain; if Trump was suspected of espionage, the FBI wouldn’t have wanted him to know it too soon. The problem with this explanation is that the FBI had no evidence of any such suspicion. The Horowitz report will supposedly confirm that, but Robert Mueller has already done that work for Horowitz. Under those circumstances, Comey acted with significant insubordination to his superior and constitutional officer, which matters even if Comey didn’t like Trump or think he should be president.

Spying on Trump by coopting one of his aides hikes that to a level not seen since the FBI’s bad old days. It’s true that the FBI has the main charter for domestic counterespionage activities, but the FBI is not supposed to spy on elected officials — not without bulletproof substantiation of a threat. And again, we know now that the FBI never had even a reasonable suspicion to spy on Trump.

At least in RCI’s telling, the FBI under Comey had reverted to its J. Edgar roots and was attempting to manipulate the American political system for its director’s ends. If that’s also Horowitz’ telling, then Comey’s firing averted a disaster. This also provides significant context for the claims of obstruction of justice against Trump in the Mueller report. If Comey had corrupted the FBI in this manner, Trump was well within his authority to put an end to it and not to cooperate with a poisoned FBI operation targeting his administration.
And when will all this officially hit the street? Jerry Dunleavy, WaEx, Top GOP lawmaker hints that FISA abuse report may be delayed
The ranking Republican member on the House Judiciary Committee hinted on Sunday that Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s much-anticipated report detailing the findings of his inquiry into allegations of Justice Department and FBI abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act might not be released until the end of the summer.

Horowitz launched an investigation in March 2018 into whether the FBI and Justice Department filing of four FISA applications and renewals to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was an abuse of the FISA process. The applications relied heavily upon the unverified dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele, who was hired by Fusion GPS. The opposition research firm was hired by Marc Elias of the Perkins Coie law firm at the behest of the Clinton presidential campaign.
. . .
Part of the reason for these delays could be the volume of information that the Justice Department inspector general collected throughout his FISA abuse investigation. In a letter to Congress, Horowitz said his team had revealed more than 1 million records and had conducted more than 100 interviews.
Interesting, from sundance at CTH, IMPORTANT – Video Confirms Butowsky Lawsuit Claim: Julian Assange Told Ellen Ratner DNC Emails Received From Seth Rich – Not a Russian Hack…, which doesn't make it necessarily true, but certainly counters the narrative that Russians hacked the DNC.

Full-Spectrum Domino, The Butowsky Bombshell

Page 12 appears, above. However the whole thing is worth a read. Salient points:

1. Seth Rich was the DNC leaker.

2. There was no ‘Russian hack’.

3. Rich has a brother, Aaron who participated in the leak. Suddenly the strange ambivalence of the Rich family –helping to circle the wagon around the DNC and sue Fox, etc. makes more sense. They were protecting their surviving son. In fact the father tells Butowsky: “he was reluctant to go public with Seth’s and Aaron’s role in leaking the emails because “we don’t want anyone to think our sons were responsible for getting Trump elected.” Wow. Who said blood was thicker than DNC membership dues? Does anyone else smell coercion?

4. DC Mayor Bowzer, Andrew McCabe and Donna Brazille are up to their elbows in a cover-up.

5. It becomes more than plausible that Rich was the victim of a politically inspired assassination.

6. Rich’s electronic devices were opened by the FBI. Whatever was discovered definitively linked Rich to the Wikileaks leaks. McCabe put the contents beyond FOIA release, however that’s done.

7. Rich was murdered July 10, 2016. Assange began releasing the leaked documents 12 days later, on July 22.
And as long as your tin foil hat is still firmly in place, Rosie Gray at the Atlantic introduces a potential new player (like we needed one), The Man McMaster Couldn't Fire - Thirty-one-year-old Ezra Cohen-Watnick holds the intelligence portfolio on the National Security Council—but almost everything about him is a mystery.
Bannon and Ledeen may be wary of talking about Cohen-Watnick after his first, and thus far only, turn in the national spotlight. Washington got its first real look at Cohen-Watnick when he was identified as one of two White House sources who provided House Intelligence chairman Devin Nunes with evidence that former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the “unmasking” of the names of Trump associates in intelligence documents. In the intelligence world, incidental collection refers to intelligence agencies obtaining, in the course of monitoring foreigners, communications that either refer to or involve Americans, whose names are typically “masked” unless officials request that they be “unmasked.”

The incident, coming in the aftermath of Trump baselessly accusing his predecessor of wiretapping Trump Tower, became one of the first dust-ups related to the investigations into possible Russian collusion during the 2016 campaign that have gripped the White House. The president later accused Rice of having committed a crime; for her part, Rice has denied that she ordered the unmasking for political purposes.

Despite that early controversy, Cohen-Watnick retains one of the most consequential intelligence jobs in the nation, and his influence is rising. He is in the thick of some of the most important policy fights at the White House; he is viewed as an Iran hawk and has been characterized, for instance, as a main proponent of expanding U.S. efforts against Iran-backed militias in Syria. And beyond policy specifics, he’s become a flashpoint in the long-running tension between Trump and the intelligence community, a part of the U.S. government that the president has at times openly disdained.
And cleaning up some loose ends, Ace, SDNY Ends Michael Cohen Investigation With No Additional Indictments Forthcoming; Time To Revisit The Media's "Walls Are Closing In" Coverage
The Free Beacon made a supercut of the media sqeeing and reeing over all the sick indictments the Southern District would very soon be handing down:

From sundance, Bizarre Status of Flynn Partner Trial – FARA Prosecution in Tenuous Disposition…
The status of the Eastern District of Virginia case against former partner of Michael Flynn, Bijan Rafiekian is bizarre.

Apparently U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has not engaged into this case, and the current status is a mess.

The head-scratching FARA case was tenuous from the outset as the prosecution was arguing a rather odd legal interpretation of FARA statutes; and now the DOJ could be handed a dismissal, even if the jury returns a guilty verdict.

Yes, when you stretch legal interpretation beyond evidence, it’s a mess.

The current arguments surround jury instructions where the DOJ is requesting their earlier claims of Rafiekian as an “agent of a foreign government” be dropped (because there is no evidence); and simultaneously arguing that Rafiekian didn’t have to break the law surrounding FARA in order to be found guilty of breaking the DOJ interpretation of the law surrounding FARA. Confused? You should be. The judge is too:…
FARA is an abortion waiting to happen. It is rarely enforced, and used primarily as a crowbar to persuade people to plead guilty to other crimes. I believe it is a violation of the 1st amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Lobbying, even for foreign governments is speech, and Congress shall make no law . . .

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