Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Russiagate: FBI Scapegoat Identified

In the first bit of news, several outlets have now identified the FBI agent responsible for many of the 17 errors and omissions reported in the Horowitz report. Dan Chaitin and Jerry Dunleavy at WaEx report FBI's 'Case Agent 1' Stephen Somma 'primarily responsible' for FISA failures and "disciplinary" actions are being considered.
The Justice Department watchdog referred FBI agent Stephen Somma for disciplinary review after an investigation into alleged Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuses.

Somma, a counterintelligence investigator in the FBI's New York field office, was identified only as "Case Agent 1" in Inspector General Michael Horowitz's report, released in December. Sources told the New York Times that Somma is that official. The FBI did not comment for the report.

Somma was “primarily responsible for some of the most significant errors and omissions" during the process of obtaining FISA warrants to wiretap Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in 2016 and 2017, according to Horowitz. Horowitz confirmed the FBI relied heavily upon British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s salacious and unverified dossier when pursuing the secret surveillance.

The DOJ watchdog found 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the FBI's applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Page, who was under suspicion of being an agent for Russia. He was never charged with any wrongdoing.

Horowitz wrote that Somma and an unnamed Staff Operations Specialist “were the original Crossfire Hurricane team members who had primary responsibility over the Carter Page investigation.” FBI documents showed that in late August 2016, Somma was told he had “not yet presented enough information to support a FISA application targeting Carter Page.” Somma told Horowitz’s investigators “that the team's receipt of the reporting from Steele [in September] supplied missing information in terms of what Page may have been doing during his July 2016 visit to Moscow and provided enough information on Page's recent activities that [Somma] thought would satisfy the Office of Intelligence.”

“Case Agent 1 said he prepared the FISA request form,” Horowitz wrote. “The FISA request form drew almost entirely from Steele's reporting in describing the factual basis to establish probable cause to believe that Page was an agent of a foreign power.

“We found no information indicating that the FBI provided the Office of Intelligence with the documents containing Page's denials before finalizing the first FISA application,” Horowitz wrote. “Instead, Case Agent 1 provided a summary that did not contain those denials to the OI Attorney and that the OI Attorney relied upon that summary in drafting the first application.”

The inspector general did not find that Somma or his immediate supervisors were politically biased. Horowitz also did not find evidence showing the “pattern of errors” were intentional, but he noted: “we also did not find his explanations for so many significant and repeated failures to be satisfactory."
Somma was also Stephan Halper's handler, and responsible for sending him and agent "Azra Turk" to incriminate George Papadopuolos, among others. Dr. John at Flopping Aces, Identified: The FBI agent primarily responsible for abusing the Carter Page FISA warrants. No doubt they'll punish him by putting him in charge of the FBI office in the Cayman Islands or some such. From Chuck Ross at Da Caller, Senate’s FISA Probe Will Begin With Focus On Mystery Steele Dossier Source, Lindsey Graham Says. Somma is on his witness list. Will the FBI let him speak? At CTH, sundance wonders Why is The New York Times Outing Lower Level FBI Spygate Operatives? Case Agent 1: Stephen M. Somma…
A previously incurious New York Times is now exposing members of the FBI crew who participated in fraud upon the FISA Court. Are the corrupt former top-tier FBI officials starting to position lower-level FBI participants as scapegoats?
. . .
So why is the New York Times exposing Stephan Somma now as “Case Agent 1” according to “people familiar with the Russia investigation”?

Given the timing, risk exposure, and the corrupt nature of the FBI officials involved in the investigation, it looks like the top of the Crossfire Hurricane team are throwing FBI case agent Stephen Somma under the same bus as FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith.
I would guess they have other people to protect.

And now back to more recent events, Rick Moran at PJ Media is incredulous, Incredible. Top Intel Official Who Briefed Congress Overstated Russian Interference in 2020 Election to Help Trump
The ODNI is closing ranks to protect her, and my guess is that's the last we'll hear of this "overstatement." In due time, Pierson is likely to be demoted.

It's interesting that when word of this briefing leaked to the press the reports indicated that Trump didn't accept the characterization that Russia wanted him re-elected.
My guess is that Pierson will be shuttled off to the Office of the Coast Defense of Wyoming as soon as things settle down. Chuck Ross at Da Caller, ‘Shifty Schiff’: Trump Accuses House Intel Chairman Of Leaking Details Of Russia Briefing. Seems like a reasonable assumption based on past behavior, and from News Thud, Hell Freezes Over: CNN Blows Up Schiff Russia Recent Claim About President Trump. Jerry Dunleavy at WaEx again, notes that John Ratcliffe says Adam Schiff is Russia's best asset in sowing election discord. Fact check; likely true. Clarice at AmThink writes of The Democrats' Russian Roulette. Insty, ROGER KIMBALL: Media Serves Up Comedy in Effort to Get Trump.
It is a time- and labor-saving expedient. Instead of having deep-state operatives leak classified information to the press, why not simply invite the sympathetic (i.e., left-wing) press to sit in on the classified briefings? That way, venues like The New York Times and The Washington Post won’t be put to the inconvenience of having to wait for someone the leak the rumors and innuendos to them. They’ll have them firsthand.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how Russia 3.0 fares at the box office. The opening weekend, from all I can tell, was pretty dismal. What happens with this entertainment will probably depend on what competing acts the media comes up with to divert us.
As reported from the Wombat's In The Mailbox: 02.24.20, This Ain't Hell, finds  Eric Swalwell Suggesting Russian Support For Bernie Sanders May Implicate Trump As ‘An Agent Of Russia’. When all you have is a hammer. Also the First Street Journal has Surprise! National Security Wiretap System Is A Mess (no surprise, it's a government project) and American Conservative withRussiagate II – Return Of The Low-Information Zombies

Jed Babbin at AmSpec, The Next Coup Against Trump Has Begun "As the intelligence agencies for all intents renew Operation Crossfire, it’ll take more than Richard Grenell to ward them off." He's not a fan of Grenell, but he understands:
Make no mistake about this. The HPSCI briefing alleging Russia intends to interfere in the 2020 election in Trump’s behalf is an attempt to prevent Trump’s reelection, discredit the entire election, and start another hoax impeachment against Trump. It is precisely what Putin would want our intelligence agencies to do.

Forty-eight hours after the New York Times story on Russia helping Trump, another report appeared (this one in the Washington Post) saying that the Russians were trying to help Bernie Sanders in some undefined way. The story said that Sanders had been briefed on the alleged help.

Again, stop here. Remember that the whole “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation was launched and conducted covertly without giving Trump, his campaign, or his transition team any warning of the supposed Russian interference on his behalf in 2016. Then–FBI Director James Comey briefed Trump on some of the lurid allegations in 2017. There has been no report of any such briefing given to Trump or his campaign this year.

As a result of Maguire’s defenestration, an article in yesterday’s Washington Post reported that intelligence officials were now too scared to tell Trump the truth for fear of being fired.

It’s altogether clear that (1) either an intelligence agency or the HPSCI Democrats, led by Adam Schiff, leaked the story of the classified briefing to the New York Times, and (2) the Washington Post Sunday story was also planted by the intelligence community and (or) the Schiff crew. The New York Times and Washington Post are willing tools of the intelligence agencies and their Democrat allies in Congress.
Kurt Schlicter at Town Hall claims The Loser Establishment Is Rightfully Terrified of Ric Grenell and as if to prove his case, Breitbart reports Susan Rice saying Acting DNI Grenell a ‘Hack and a Shill’ — ‘One of the Most Nasty, Dishonest People I’ve Ever Encountered’. Why is she so homophobic? Hot Air cites Jane Harman at the NYT whining that I Helped Create The Nation’s Top Spy Job. It’s About To Be Destroyed like it's a bad thing.

Via Caitlin Yilek at the WaEx, Trump said he'd like to abolish FISA. One can see why. But not before he abuses it against the Democrats. Only then will they see the wisdom. Sundance has the video as The Great Lou Dobbs says “No FISA Reauthorization” Without Reform and Sunlight…

Breitbart fact checks the NYT and WaPoo and finds Experts Unconvinced Russia Hacked Burisma to Harm Joe Biden  AllahPundit at Hot Air (VIP) is shocked when Kellyanne Conway claims The Payback For Impeachment Is The Nomination Of Bernie Sanders
I *think* she means that impeachment backfired on Democrats by creating an intense spotlight on Hunter Biden and Burisma, ironically the very thing Trump was seeking to do by nudging Ukraine to reopen an investigation into the two. Peter Beinart floated that theory a few weeks ago as well: Joe Biden, not Trump, was the big loser from the process.
Ace notices that Marie "Masha" Yovanovitch Gets Seven Figure Book Deal for a Book That'd Be Lucky To Sell Five Figures of Copies and sees the same thing I do.
Question: Should we begin counting book deals for political figures that are wildly out of sync with actual sales associated with that book as undisclosed political contributions?

Does the #Resistance have a network to simply fund their members through undisclosed corporate donations?
Shades of Baltimore ex-mayor Pugh. Will they even bother to print the requisite copies to pay for her grift?

And sundance reports on things that continue to make you go hmmm, Odd Reversal – California Sheriff Now Says No Conclusion of Suicide in Mysterious Death of DHS Whistle-blower…

From Chuck Ross at Da Caller, Roger Stone Files Motion To Disqualify Judge Handling His Case. I believe she's already turned that down. He also reported Here’s What The Lead Roger Stone Juror Wrote In Her Jury Questionnaire
The lead juror at Roger Stone’s trial said in a written questionnaire for prospective jurors that she was “not sure” whether she posted online about the Russia investigation or Stone, and that she “may have shared an article” on social media on the topics, according to a portion of the document reviewed by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

But Tomeka Hart’s Twitter feed shows that she indeed posted multiple times about the Russia probe and at least once about Stone, who was sentenced on Thursday to 40 months in prison in a case that stemmed from the special counsel’s investigation.

Stone’s lawyers filed a motion on Feb. 14 alleging that Hart’s social media activity shows that she was biased against President Donald Trump and Stone. Trump also criticized Hart during a press conference after Stone was sentenced.

Trump called Hart an “anti-Trump activist,” and suggested that she “tainted” Stone’s jury.

Hart, who ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2012, commented negatively about Trump on Twitter and circulated news stories about the Russia probe. In one Aug. 2, 2019 post, she called all of Trump’s supporters racist.
Oh she sound perfectly not biased, and And yes, Judge Jackson rejected the plea.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who presided over Stone’s case, said last Tuesday that she would decide after Stone’s sentencing whether to grant a retrial. Jackson did not comment directly on reports about Hart during Stone’s sentencing on Thursday, but did say that the jury in Stone’s case acted with “integrity.”

Jackson on Sunday rejected Stone’s request, filed Friday, that she recuse herself from the retrial decision because of her praise of the jury. Stone is arguing that Hart gave misleading answers during the jury selection process.

Jackson’s rulings suggest that Stone faces an uphill battle in getting a retrial granted. And judges are generally reluctant to toss out a jury’s verdict without strong evidence of jury or prosecutorial misconduct.
Jonathon Turley, who, I guess has resigned himself to not being invited to the best Washinton DC parties thinks Roger Stone deserves a new trial
. . . it is not clear that Stone received a fair trial due to alleged juror bias or, even if his trial is now finished, whether it will become undone by a presidential pardon. If nothing else, one thing should be clear. Stone holds a far greater claim to a new trial than to a presidential pardon.

The decision of Judge Amy Berman Jackson to move forward with his sentencing was a surprise to many of us, following disturbing reports of potential juror bias by the trial foreperson. It was a curious twist on the position of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, who declared, “Sentence first! Verdict afterwards.” In this case, the court decided to resolve the sentence before resolving if there was a valid verdict.
A point I have made before.
I have previously discussed the statements made by Tomeka Hart before she became the jury foreperson. She exhibited intense hostility against Trump and his associates and protested against the administration. She also expressed support for investigations of the administration and even discussed this case. Worse yet, the transcript of the voir dire hearing did not suggest that the defense counsel was aware of this history. Either she disclosed the information and defense counsel was less than effective, or Hart had withheld the information and was less than transparent.

Jackson may have two equally unappealing choices. First, the court could order a new trial, making this sentencing drama a meaningless exercise. Second, she could dismiss any concerns as speculative and refuse to take any action. Such a decision would make a mockery of the jury selection process. What is the value of voir dire if a juror with such alleged bias can find her way not just onto the jury but into the position as foreperson? If there was indeed a failure to disclose, despite multiple questions on the juror survey seeking such information, then the failure to act would make a mockery not just of the judicial process but of the court itself.

While Stone is hardly a sympathetic figure, and certainly garnered little sympathy from the court in his misconduct as a defendant, he may still be the victim here. It is unfair to assure defendants that they are entitled to unbiased juries but then shrug when the forepersons are found to have clear bias or failed to disclose material information in voir dire.

The court demands the impossible if it wants clear proof that, if not for such bias, the juror would not have voted to convict or that the jury would have reached a different conclusion in the case. If there is a due process right to an unbiased jury, then there should be a presumption in favor of the defendant when bias is uncovered. In other words, Stone should be given a new trial. I doubt that he would be exonerated, however, there remains a serious question of whether he was properly adjudicated.
I doubt Stone could get a fair trial in DC. Move the trial to Montana and try again. 

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