February - 2017

February 23, 2017 – Illegal fundraiser for the Clintons made secret tape because he feared being assassinated over what he knew – and used it to reveal Democrats’ bid to silence him

“A Chinese-American businessman at the center of a Clinton campaign finance scandal secretly filmed a tell-all video as an ‘insurance policy’ – because he feared being murdered.”

Johnny Chung’s (l) fundraising made him someone the Clintons were keen to be seen with. (Credit: Daily Mail)

(…) “In the never-before-released footage, [Johnny] Chung described how he feared for his life after he publicly admitted to funneling money from Chinese officials to President Bill Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign.

He also claimed Democrats pressured him to stay silent about his dealings with the Clintons and said the FBI tried to enlist him in a sting against a top Chinese general at a Los Angeles airport.

The video comes amid renewed interest in foreign influence in Washington, as some members of President Donald Trump’s team have been scrutinized for their associations with Russian officials.

The video grew out of a controversy in the mid-1990s when evidence surfaced that Chinese officials were pouring hundreds of thousands into then president Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign through American straw donors.

Chung, one of the main players in the ‘Chinagate’ scandal, was accused of giving over $300,000 to the Democratic National Committee on behalf of the head of China’s military intelligence agency during Clinton’s reelection bid.

Chung cooperated with the Department of Justice during the investigation, and was sentenced to five years of probation for campaign finance violations, bank fraud and tax evasion in 1998. (Read more: The Daily Mail, 2/23/2017)

February 2017 – Comey intervenes to kill a limited immunity deal arranged between the DOJ and Julian Assange

Julian Assange (l) and Adam Waldman (Credit: public domain)

(…) “This yarn begins in January 2017 when Assange’s legal team approached Waldman — known for his government connections — to see if the new Trump administration would negotiate with the WikiLeaks founder, holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy. They hoped Waldman, a former Clinton Justice Department official, might navigate the U.S. law enforcement bureaucracy and find the right people to engage.”

(…) “Assange had a bargaining chip: The U.S. government knew he had a massive trove of documents from classified CIA computers, identifying sensitive assets and chronicling the agency’s offensive cyber warfare weapons.

Waldman contacted Ohr, a Justice official he’d met during the Russia election case. They talked by phone and encrypted text messages in early January, then met Feb. 3, 2017, in Washington, records show. In between, Waldman met three times with Assange in London.”

(…) “Ohr consulted his chain of command and the intelligence community about what appeared to be an extraordinary overture that raised hopes the government could negotiate what Assange would release and what he might redact, to protect the names of exposed U.S. officials.

Assange made clear through the lawyer that he would never compromise his sources, or stop publishing information, but was willing to consider concessions like redactions.”

(…) “The shuttle diplomacy soon resulted in an informal offer — known in government parlance as a “Queen for a Day” proffer — in which Assange identified what he wanted and what he might give.

“Subject to adequate and binding protections, including but not limited to an acceptable immunity and safe passage agreement, Mr. Assange welcomes the opportunity to discuss with the U.S. government risk mitigation approaches relating to CIA documents in WikiLeaks’ possession or control, such as the redaction of agency personnel in hostile jurisdictions and foreign espionage risks to WikiLeaks staff,” Waldman wrote Laufman on March 28, 2017.

Not included in the written proffer was an additional offer from Assange: He was willing to discuss technical evidence ruling out certain parties in the controversial leak of Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks during the 2016 election. The U.S. government believes those emails were hacked by Russia; Assange insists they did not come from Moscow.

“Mr. Assange offered to provide technical evidence and discussion regarding who did not engage in the DNC releases,” Waldman told me. “Finally, he offered his technical expertise to the U.S. government to help address what he perceived as clear flaws in security systems that led to the loss of the U.S. cyber weapons program.”

A snippet of Julian Assange’s agreement.

(…) “But an unexpected intervention by Comey — relayed through Warner — soured the negotiations, multiple sources tell me. Assange eventually unleashed a series of leaks that U.S. officials say damaged their cyber warfare capabilities for a long time to come.

What U.S. officials did not fully comprehend was that an earlier event weighed heavily on the Assange team’s distrust of U.S. intentions.

Just a few days after the negotiations opened in mid-February, Waldman reached out to Sen. Warner; the lawyer wanted to see if Senate Intelligence Committee staff wanted any contact with Assange, to ask about Russia or other issues.

Warner engaged with Waldman over encrypted text messages, then reached out to Comey. A few days later, Warner contacted Waldman with an unexpected plea.

“He told me he had just talked with Comey and that, while the government was appreciative of my efforts, my instructions were to stand down, to end the discussions with Assange,” Waldman told me. Waldman offered contemporaneous documents to show he memorialized Warner’s exact words.” (Read more: The Hill, 6/25/2018)

February 14, 2017 – Comey’s statement for the record on his Oval Office meeting with Trump

Statement for the Record

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
James B. Comey
June 8, 2017

Chairman Burr, Ranking Member Warner, Members of the Committee

Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today. I was asked to testify today to describe for you my interactions with President-Elect and President Trump on subjects that I understand are of interest to you. I have not included every detail from my conversations with the President, but, to the best of my recollection, I have tried to include information that may be relevant to the Committee.

February 14 Oval Office Meeting

James Comey (Credit: ABC News)

On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counterterrorism briefing of the President. He sat behind the desk and a group of us sat in a semi-circle of about six chairs facing him on the other side of the desk. The Vice President, Deputy Director of the CIA, Director of the National CounterTerrorism Center, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and I were in the semi-circle of chairs. I was directly facing the President, sitting between the Deputy CIA Director and the Director of NCTC. There were quite a few others in the room, sitting behind us on couches and chairs.

The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. I stayed in my chair. As the participants started to leave the Oval Office, the Attorney General lingered by my chair, but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me. The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair and exchanged pleasantries with me. The President then excused him, saying he wanted to speak with me.

When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.

The President then made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information — a concern I shared and still share. After he had spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him. The President waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly. The door closed.

The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.”

The President returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the Vice President.

I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.

The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so two weeks later.) The Deputy Attorney General’s role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role. After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed. The investigation moved ahead at full speed, with none of the investigative team members — or the Department of Justice lawyers supporting them — aware of the President’s request.

Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President’s concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the AG that what had just happened — him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind — was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply. For the reasons discussed above, I did not mention that the President broached the FBI’s potential investigation of General Flynn. (Read more: CNN, 6/8/2017)