September - 2016

Late September, 2016 – Christopher Steele, following instructions from Fusion GPS, briefs reporters on the dossier

Late September: In London court filings, Christopher Steele is identified as Second Defendant and testifies to following instructions from Fusion GPS, and briefing reporters at several news outlets about the dossier. Steele briefed The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, The New Yorker and Yahoo! News.

 

Screenshot from Christopher Steele’s testimony to a London court.

 

Late September, 2016 – A second dossier, compiled by Cody Shearer and Sidney Blumenthal, was given to Christopher Steele

Long-time Clinton confidant and colleague of Cody Shearer, Sidney Blumenthal and Hillary Clinton (Credit: public domain)

“A copy of the little-publicized second dossier in the Trump-Russia affair, acquired by RealClearInvestigations, raises new questions about the origins of the Trump investigation, particularly about the role of Clinton partisans and the extent to which the two dossiers may have been coordinated or complementary operations.

The second dossier — two reports compiled by Cody Shearer, an ex-journalist and longtime Clinton operative — echoes many of the lurid and still unsubstantiated claims made in the Steele dossier, and is receiving new scrutiny. On Sunday, Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a TV interview that his panel is shifting its investigative focus concerning the origins of the Russia investigation from the FBI to the State Department. This probe will include the Shearer dossier.

Jonathan Winer (Credit: U.S. State Department)

In late September 2016, Sidney Blumenthal, a close Clinton confidant and colleague of Shearer’s, passed Shearer’s dossier on to State Department official Jonathan M. Winer, a longtime aide to John Kerry on Capitol Hill and at Foggy Bottom.

According to Winer’s account in a Feb. 8, 2018 Washington Post op-ed, he shared the contents of the Shearer dossier with the author of the first dossier, ex-British spy Christopher Steele, who submitted part of it to the FBI to further substantiate his own investigation into the Trump campaign.  Steele was a subcontractor working for the Washington, D.C.-based communications firm Fusion GPS, which was hired by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee to compile opposition research on her Republican opponent.” (Read more: RealClearInvestigations, 4/26/2018)

September 29, 2016 – The Department of Homeland Security creates a deceptive tale of Russia hacking US voter sites

This “Flash” memo was published three days after Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, offered Illinois state officials assistance in securing election systems. (Credit: Yahoo News)

(…) “On Sept. 29, 2016, a few weeks after the hacking of election-related websites in Illinois and Arizona, ABC News carried a sensational headline: “Russian Hackers Targeted Nearly Half of States’ Voter Registration Systems, Successfully Infiltrated 4.” The story itself reported that “more than 20 state election systems” had been hacked, and four states had been “breached” by hackers suspected of working for the Russian government. The story cited only sources “knowledgeable” about the matter, indicating that those who were pushing the story were eager to hide the institutional origins of the information.

Behind that sensational story was a federal agency seeking to establish its leadership within the national security state apparatus on cybersecurity, despite its limited resources for such responsibility. In late summer and fall 2016, the Department of Homeland Security was maneuvering politically to designate state and local voter registration databases and voting systems as “critical infrastructure.” Such a designation would make voter-related networks and websites under the protection a “priority sub-sector” in the DHS “National Infrastructure Protection Plan, which already included 16 such sub-sectors.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and other senior DHS officials consulted with many state election officials in the hope of getting their approval for such a designation. Meanwhile, the DHS was finishing an intelligence report that would both highlight the Russian threat to U.S. election infrastructure and the role DHS could play in protecting it, thus creating political impetus to the designation. But several secretaries of state—the officials in charge of the election infrastructure in their state—strongly opposed the designation that Johnson wanted.

On Jan. 6, 2017—the same day three intelligence agencies released a joint “assessment” on Russian interference in the election—Johnson announced the designation anyway.

Media stories continued to reflect the official assumption that cyber attacks on state election websites were Russian-sponsored. Stunningly, The Wall Street Journal reported in December 2016 that DHS was itself behind hacking attempts of Georgia’s election database.” (Read more: Consortium News, 8/28/2018)

September 28 – November 6, 2016: Despite Comey assurances, the Weiner Laptop emails were never examined

James Comey: “The FBI left no stones unturned.” (Credit: Salt Serkan Gurbuz / ZUMA Wire)

“When then-FBI Director James Comey announced he was closing the Hillary Clinton email investigation for a second time just days before the 2016 election, he certified to Congress that his agency had “reviewed all of the communications” discovered on a personal laptop used by Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin, and her husband, Anthony Weiner.”

(…) “FBI officials in New York assumed that the bureau’s brass would jump on the discovery, particularly since it included the missing emails from the start of Clinton’s time at State. In fact, the emails dated from the beginning of 2007 and covered the entire period of Clinton’s tenure as secretary and thereafter. The team leading the Clinton investigation, codenamed “Midyear Exam,” had never been able to find Clinton’s emails from her first two months as secretary.

By Oct. 4, the Weiner case agent had finished processing the laptop, and reported that he found at least 675,000 emails potentially relevant to the Midyear case (in fact, the final count was 694,000). “Based on the number of emails, we could have every email that Huma and Hillary ever sent each other,” the agent remarked  to colleagues. It appeared this was the mother lode of missing Clinton emails. But Strzok remained uninterested. “This isn’t a ticking terrorist bomb,” he was quoted as saying in the recently issued inspector general’s report. Besides, he had bigger concerns, such as, “You know, is the government of Russian trying to get somebody elected here in the United States?”

Strzok and headquarters sat on the mountain of evidence for another 26 days. The career New York agent said all he was hearing from Washington was “crickets,” so he pushed the issue to his immediate superiors, fearing he would be “scapegoated” for failing to search the pile of digital evidence. They, in turn, went over Strzok’s head, passing their concerns on to career officials at the National Security Division of the Justice Department, who in turn set off alarm bells at the seventh floor executive suites of the Hoover Building.

The New York agent has not been publicly identified, even in the recent IG report, which only describes him as male. But federal court filings in the Weiner case reviewed by RCI list two FBI agents present in court proceedings, only one of whom is male – John Robertson. RCI has confirmed that Robertson at the time was an FBI special agent assigned to the C-20 squad investigating “crimes against children” at the bureau’s New York field office at 26 Federal Plaza, which did not return messages.

The agent told the inspector general that he wasn’t political and didn’t understand all the sensitive issues headquarters may have been weighing, but he feared Washington’s inaction might be seen as a cover-up that  could wreak havoc on the bureau.

“I don’t care who wins this election,” he said, “but this is going to make us look really, really horrible.”

Lisa Page: “Whatever.” (Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press)

Once George Toscas, the highest-ranking Justice Department official directly involved in the Clinton email investigation, found out about the delay, he prodded headquarters to initiate a search and to inform Congress about the discovery.

By Oct. 21, Strzok had gotten the word. “Toscas now aware NY has hrc-huma emails,” he texted McCabe’s counsel, Lisa Page, who responded, “whatever.”

Four days later, Page told Strzok – with whom she was having an affair – about the murmurs she was hearing from brass about having to tell Congress about the new emails. “F them,” Strzok responded, apparently referring to oversight committee leaders on the Hill.

The next day, Oct. 26, the New York agent finally was able to brief Strzok’s team directly about what he had found on the laptop. On Oct. 27, Comey gave the green light to seek a search warrant.

Michael Horowitz: “Pressure from New York was key to reopening email case.” (Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta/The Associated Press)

“This decision resulted not from the discovery of dramatic new information about the Weiner laptop, but rather as a result of inquiries from the Weiner case agent and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office [in New York],” Horowitz said in his recently released report on the Clinton investigation.

Former prosecutors say that politics is the only explanation for why FBI brass dragged their feet for a month after the New York office alerted them about the  Clinton emails.

“There’s no rational explanation why, after they found over 300,000 Clinton emails on the Wiener laptop in late September, the FBI did nothing for a month,” former deputy Independent Counsel Solomon “Sol” L. Wisenberg said in a recent interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham. “It’s pretty clear there’s a real possibility they did nothing because they thought it would hurt Mrs. Clinton during the election.”

Horowitz concurred. The IG cited suspicions that the inaction “was a politically motivated attempt to bury information that could negatively impact the chances of Hillary Clinton in the election.”

He noted that on Nov. 3, after Comey notified Congress of the search, Strzok created a suspiciously inaccurate “Weiner timeline” and  circulated it among the FBI leadership.

The odd document, written after the fact, made it seem as if New York hadn’t fully processed the laptop until Oct. 19 and had neglected to fill headquarters in on details about what had been found until Oct. 21. In fact, New York finished processing on Oct. 4 and first began reporting back details to top FBI executives as early as Sept. 28.” (Read much more: RealClearInvestigations, 8/23/2018)

(Timeline editor’s note: This is just an excerpt from a much more in-depth report on what happened to the Weiner laptop. Please be sure to read it in its entirety.)

September 28 – November 6, 2016 – Did the FBI investigate the emails on the Abedin/Clinton laptop?

(…) “Mr. Comey is questioned about the announcement of re-opening of the Hillary Clinton email investigation on October 28th, 2016. In his response to why there was a delay between the FBI being notified by New York on September 28th, and waiting until October 28th, James Comey revealed a very important nugget.

The New York U.S. Attorney (SDNY) called Main Justice in DC to ask about why they were not receiving authority for a search warrant. We knew that call took place on October 21st, 2016. Now we know “why” and who New York called at DOJ HQ.

Baier: “Did you know that Andrew McCabe, your deputy, had sat on that revelation about the emails”?

Comey: “Yeah, I don’t know that, I don’t know that to be the case. I do know that New York and FBI headquarters became aware that there may be some connection between Weiner’s laptop and the Clinton investigation, weeks before it was brought to me for decision – and as I write in the book I don’t know whether they could have moved faster and why the delay”

Baier: “Was it the threat that New York Agents were going to leak that it existed really what drove you to the ‘not conceal’ part?

Comey: “I don’t think so. I think what actually drove it was the prosecutors in New York who were working the criminal case against Weiner called down to headquarters and said ‘are we getting a search warrant or not for this’?  That caused, I’m sorry, Justice Department Headquarters, to then call across the street to the FBI and poke the organization; and they start to move much more quickly. I don’t know why there was, if there was slow activity, why it was slow for those first couple of weeks.”

(…) “In his Bret Baier interview FBI Director James Comey says this call is about a search warrant.  There is no indication the call is actually about a search warrant.

However, that phone call kicks off an internal debate about the previously closed Clinton email investigation; and Andrew McCabe sitting on the notification from New York for over three weeks – kicks off an internal FBI discussion about McCabe needing to recuse himself.

Now it’s October 27th, 2016, James Comey chief-of-staff Jim Rybicki wants McCabe to recuse himself.  But Rybicki is alone on an island. Lisa Page is furious at such a suggestion, partly because she is McCabe’s legal counsel and if McCabe is recused so too is she.

At the same time as they are debating how to handle the Huma Abedin/Hillary Clinton emails, they are leaking to the media to frame a specific narrative.

Important to note here, that at no time is there any conversation -or hint of a conversation- that anyone is reviewing the content of the emails.  The discussions don’t mention a single word about content… every scintilla of conversation is about how to handle the issues of the emails themselves.  Actually, there’s not a single person mentioned in thousands of text messages that applies to an actual person who is looking at any content.

Quite simply: there is a glaringly transparent lack of an “investigation”.

(…) “It’s still October 27th, 2016, the day before James Comey announces his FBI decision to re-open the Clinton investigation.  Jim Rybicki still saying McCabe should be recused from input; everyone else, including FBI Legal Counsel James Baker, is disagreeing with Rybicki and siding with Lisa Page.

Meanwhile the conversation has shifted slightly to “PC”, probable cause.  Read:

(…) “The team is now saying if there was no probable cause when Comey closed the original email investigation in July 2016 (remember the very tight boundaries of review), then there’s no probable cause in October 2016 to reopen the investigation regardless of what the email content might be.

This appears to be how the “small group” or “tight team” justify doing nothing with the content received from New York. They received the emails September 28th and it’s now October 27th, and they haven’t even looked at it. Heck, they are debating if there’s even a need to look at it.” (Read more: Conservative Treehouse, 4/28/2018)

On November 6, 2016, Comey clears Clinton for having her State Department emails on the Abedin/Weiner laptop, two days before the election. (CNN, 11/7/2016)

September 26, 2016 – The DOJ OIG Report describes a “trove” of emails covering Clinton’s entire tenure as SoS, are on the Weiner laptop

The cyber division of the FBI. (Credit: public domain)

(…) “Only a few hours after the New York office of the FBI took possession of the Weiner laptop, on September 26, 2016, the FBI computer expert discovered it contained more than 140,000 emails involving Hillary Clinton. They were from multiple domain names: State.gov, Clintonemail.com, ClintonFoundation.org, HillaryClinton.com and Blackberry devices. The agent had what he told the inspector general was an “oh shit moment” — recognizing that he had found evidence important to the most important investigation — and he immediately reported it up the chain.

According to the inspector general’s report of June 14, specifically Chapters IX-XI, the treasure “trove” of emails covered Mrs. Clinton’s entire tenure as Secretary of State.

(…) “Indeed, according to the inspector general, 39 high-ranking FBI agents knew of it, along with the New York office and people in the New York U.S. Attorney’s office. The New York FBI informed them all during a secure video-conference on September 28 — chaired by Andrew McCabe.

One agent said the announcement of finding hundreds of thousands of Clinton emails on Weiner’s laptop was “like dropping a bomb in the middle of the meeting.”

The New York agent Sweeney followed up with two calls to McCabe later that evening — after McCabe did not call him as promised.

So . . . what did McCabe, Comey and Strzok do? They sat on it until police officers in New York and FBI agents in New York threatened to expose them. (Read more: The Daily Caller, 6/20/2018)

September 23, 2016 – Michael Isikoff writes about allegations against Trump adviser, Carter Page

Michael Isikoff (Credit: Charlie Rose Show)

“U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials — including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president, according to multiple sources who have been briefed on the issue.

The activities of Trump adviser Carter Page, who has extensive business interests in Russia, have been discussed with senior members of Congress during recent briefings about suspected efforts by Moscow to influence the presidential election, the sources said. After one of those briefings, Senate minority leader Harry Reid wrote FBI Director James Comey, citing reports of meetings between a Trump adviser (a reference to Page) and “high ranking sanctioned individuals” in Moscow over the summer as evidence of “significant and disturbing ties” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin that needed to be investigated by the bureau.

Some of those briefed were “taken aback” when they learned about Page’s contacts in Moscow, viewing them as a possible back channel to the Russians that could undercut U.S. foreign policy, said a congressional source familiar with the briefings but who asked for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. The source added that U.S. officials in the briefings indicated that intelligence reports about the adviser’s talks with senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin were being “actively monitored and investigated.”

A senior U.S. law enforcement official did not dispute that characterization when asked for comment by Yahoo News. “It’s on our radar screen,” said the official about Page’s contacts with Russian officials. “It’s being looked at.” (Read more: Yahoo News, 9/23/2016)

September 23, 2016 – The problem with Michael Isikoff’s article about Carter Page

Michael Isikoff (Credit: MSNBC)

“The FBI, Justice Department and a federal surveillance court were all apparently unaware that the Sept. 23, 2016 article, written by Michael Isikoff, was based on the infamous and unverified Steele dossier. Numerous reporters, pundits and even a former CIA Moscow station chief have also been fooled into thinking that Isikoff’s article corroborated parts of the dossier.

The confusion is due in part to Isikoff’s report, which was published at Yahoo! News.

A veteran reporter who has worked inside the Beltway for decades, Isikoff used vague sourcing in his Carter Page article. He also failed to disclose that his information was the fruit of an anti-Trump opposition research campaign funded by Democrats.

He also did not acknowledge that his source — former British spy Christopher Steele — had already given the FBI the information he used in the article.”

(…) “Isikoff met Steele in September 2016 at a Washington, D.C. hotel. The pair were introduced by Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS and an “old friend” of Isikoff. The opposition research firm had been hired by the Clinton campaign and DNC to investigate Donald Trump. Fusion hired Steele to look into Trump’s ties to Russia.”

(…) “He did not disclose that Steele, his source, had provided information about Page to the FBI, sparking the very same investigation that Isikoff would confirm in his reporting. Steele began sharing information with the Bureau in July 2016. He provided updates on his findings through the summer and into Fall 2016.

And instead of referring to Steele as a private investigator, which he was, Isikoff described Steele as the more official sounding “well-placed Western intelligence source.”

Isikoff also withheld Steele and Simpson’s political affiliations even though he acknowledged on Friday that he was aware that the pair were working for Democrats. Isikoff did say that he was unaware that Simpson was working for the Clinton campaign and DNC.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 2/05/2018)

September 20, 2016 – A House IG investigation finds Imran Awan made ‘unauthorized access’ to congressional servers

Imran Awan (Credit: Bonnie Jo Mount/Washington Post)

“The Department of Justice found “no evidence” that former Democratic IT aide Imran Awan violated cybersecurity laws, prosecutors said Thursday, but the House of Representatives’ internal watchdog reported that the Pakistani native made “unauthorized access” to congressional servers.

Prosecutors said police interviewed approximately 40 witnesses, reviewed relevant communications and examined a number of related devices, but couldn’t find anything they could charge Imran with regarding cybersecurity. Details of the investigation were included in a plea deal with Imran surrounding unrelated bank fraud.

But a pair of presentations by House Inspector General Theresa Grafenstine detail a number of rules Imran and his family allegedly broke surrounding cybersecurity rules. The watchdog is a past chair of ISACA, an international IT association.

Grafenstine found that Imran made “unauthorized access” to congressional servers in a way that suggested he was trying to “conceal” his activity and that his unusual activity suggested a server could be used for “nefarious purposes.”

A source allowed The Daily Caller News Foundation to review and transcribe the IG’s PowerPoint presentation, but was not given a copy for fear that metadata could reveal the source’s identity.

Below is that transcription in full.

Page one of the House Inspector General's report on Imran Awan.

Page two of the House Inspector General's report on Imran Awan.

Page three of the House Inspector General's report on Imran Awan.

(Read more: The Daily Caller. 7/09/2018)

September 2016 – Top FBI official, James Baker meets with DNC lawyer, Michael Sussmann, who then leaks to media

Michael Sussman (Credit: Perkins Coie)

“Former FBI General Counsel James Baker met with the Democratic party’s top lawyer, Michael Sussmann, to discuss the ongoing investigation by the bureau into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties with Russia. This meeting happened prior to the FBI’s initial warrant to spy on short-term campaign volunteer Carter Page, sources close to the investigation have told SaraACarter.com. Moreover, information provided by Baker, who gave extensive testimony Wednesday to lawmakers behind closed doors, coincides with the House Intelligence Committee’s final Russia report that suggests Sussmann was also leaking unverified information on the Trump campaign to journalists around the same time he met with Baker, according to the report and sources close the investigation.

These sources say this new information from Baker exposes the bureau’s failure to inform the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that the evidence used to spy on Page was partisan and unverified. It further reveals the extensive role and close connection Sussmann, a cybersecurity and national security lawyer with Perkins Coie, had with the now-embattled research firm, Fusion GPS. The Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton Campaign retained Fusion GPS through Perkins Coie during the 2016 election to investigate alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Fusion GPS then hired former British spy, Christopher Steele, who compiled the unverified dossier during the summer and fall of 2016. In 2017, this reporter first published that Baker was purportedly under a Department of Justice criminal investigation for allegedly leaking classified national security information to the media.  At the time, the bureau would not comment on Baker and would not confirm or deny any investigation. Baker, who resigned from the bureau in May, was the FBI’s top counsel and a close advisor to former Director James Comey.

James Baker (Credit: CSpan2)

In 2016, the Clinton campaign and the DNC paid $9.1 million to the law firm, according to reports. Sussmann, however, is also connected to CrowdStrike.  CrowdStrike is the private cybersecurity that was retained by Perkins Coie for the DNC to investigate the breach of its server after it was discovered that it had been hacked in April 2016. Although the FBI has conducted its own investigation into the breach of the server the Democratic National Committee never gave the FBI permission to access the server itself.

“These parallels between the law firm and CrowdStrike also need to be investigated,” said a former FBI official familiar with the security firm. “All of these connections aren’t coincidences and it smells to high heaven.”

According to lawmakers, he explained in detail how the Russia probe was handled by bureau officials in an “abnormal way” and detailed his meeting with Sussmann. Fox News first reported Baker’s testimony quoting Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) who said, “some of the things that were shared were explosive in nature.”  Meadows, who attended the deposition of Baker, told SaraACarter.com he would not elaborate on the specifics of the interview, but said, “Mr. Baker’s testimony provided a number of new facts that needed further exploration.”  Meadows expects more information in the future and follow-up interviews.

Baker was forthcoming about what he knew and what took place during the investigation, multiple sources said. The information regarding the meeting between Baker and Sussmann would indicate that the FBI was more than likely aware that the law firm was hired by the DNC to investigate alleged connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, but withheld that information from the secret FISC when it sought the warrant to spy on short-term campaign volunteer Page in October.” (Read more: Sara Carter, 10/03/2018)

 

Jeff Carlson of themarketswork.com pinpoints the possible date of Sussman and Baker’s meeting in the footnotes of a House Intelligence Committee report, to September 2016.

 

“In the House Intelligence Committee’s final Report on Russian Active Measures, mention is made of a meeting between James Baker and an unknown party in footnote 43, on page 57. This is a particularly heavily redacted portion but the following details are available:

 

“In September 2016 [redacted] shared similar information in a one-on-one meeting with FBI General Counsel James Baker. HPSCI, Executive Session of [redacted], Dec. 18, 2017. Around the same time as his meeting with FBI, [redacted] shared the information with journalists, [redacted] of Slate, who published an article at the end of October. HPSCI, Executive Session of [redacted] Dec. 18, 2017; [redacted] “Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia?,” Slate, Oct. 31, 2016. Candidate Clinton promoted the [redacted] article to her social media followers the same day it was published.” (Intelligence.house(pdf))

 (Read more: The Epoch Times, 10/04/2018)