hearsay

December 9, 2019 – The IG FISA report suggests the FISA court is complicit in the FBI FISA abuses

Margot Cleveland

“While the IG’s 478-page report includes many damning details, the following passage indicates that the FISA court abdicated its responsibility of providing “an external check on executive branch decisions to conduct surveillance” in order “’to protect the fourth amendment rights of U.S. persons.”

This paragraph describes how the government described their sources to the FISA court:

The final application submitted to the FISC contained a description of the source network that included the fact that Steele relied upon a Primary Sub-source who used a network of sub-sources, and that neither Steele nor the Primary Sub-source had direct access to the information being reported. The drafts, read copy, and final application also contained a separate footnote on each sub-source with a brief description of his/her position or access to the information he/she was reporting. The Supervisory Intel Analyst assisted the case agent in providing information on the sub-sources and reviewed the footnotes for accuracy. According to the [Office of Intelligence] Attorney, the application contained more information about the sources than is typically provided to the court in FISA applications. According to [the Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Stuart] Evans, the idea was to present the source network to the court so that the court would have as much information as possible.

From this paragraph we know that the FISA court was expressly told that neither Christopher Steele nor his primary sub-source were the actual sources of the information included in the FISA applications. Instead, the FISA applications made clear that Steele and his primary sub-source were repeating information other individuals told them. And it appears from this passage that the only additional information provided to the court concerned a sub-source’s “position” or “access to the information” on which he was reporting.

Further, there appears to be no assertion in the FISA applications that the sub-sources were reliable. (Even if the FISA applications professed the reliability of sub-sources, “courts hold that conclusory statements that informants are ‘believed to be reliable sources,’ ‘standing alone without any supporting factual information, merit absolutely no weight and that information obtained from a reliable source must be treated as information obtained from an informant of unknown reliability.’”) Instead, the FISA applications focused on Steele’s supposed reliability.

But as a legal matter, that is not enough: Even though the probable cause threshold is low, “an untested, unidentified informant’s second-hand report” does not “clear the bar.” (Read more: The Federalist, 1/10/2020)  (Archive)

October 22, 2019 – A transcript of William Taylor’s testimony against President Trump shows all of his evidence is hearsay

“A key Democratic witness against Trump admitted in congressional testimony last month that he was not part of the July 25 phone call between the U.S. and Ukrainian presidents, that he didn’t see a transcript or readout of it until late September when it was declassified and released, and that he has never even spoken to President Donald Trump.

William Taylor, the charge d’affairs of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, told lawmakers in secret testimony two weeks ago that his opinions about an alleged quid pro quo demanded by Trump were formed largely from conversations with anti-Trump staffers within the diplomatic bureaucracy.

William Taylor (Credit: Ovsyannikova Yulia/Getty Images)

“[Y]ou’ve never spoken to Mr. [Rudy] Giuliani?” Taylor was asked.

“No, no,” he replied.

“Has anyone ever asked you to speak to Mr. Giuliani?”

“No,” Taylor said.

“And if I may, have you spoken to the president of the United States?” Taylor was asked.

“I have not,” he said.

“You had no communications with the president of the United States?”

“Correct,” Taylor said.

He also admitted he had never spoken to Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s chief of staff.

When asked who exactly he had spoken to about the brouhaha, Taylor confirmed that his only contacts about the matter were with John Bolton, the former national security adviser who was fired by Trump, Fiona Hill, Alexander Vindman, and Tim Morrison. Both Hill and Vindman are rumored to have been sources for the so-called whistleblower who filed a complaint against Trump in August.

Taylor also testified that his knowledge of the phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymr Zelensky wasn’t first-hand knowledge.

(Read more: The Federalist, 11/06/2019)  (Transcript)

Updates may be added:

October 15, 2019 – Notes on George Kent’s closed-door testimony

George Kent (Credit: public domain)

“The second witness in the first public “impeachment inquiry” hearing to be called to testify Wednesday by House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) will be George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau at the State Department.

Kent already testified once, on October 15 — behind closed doors and long before an “impeachment inquiry” was authorized. The transcript was only recently released.

Democrats are making Kent one of their two leadoff witnesses because for two reasons. First, he comes across as a likable curmudgeon: while he has sharp criticism for President Donald Trump, he also has a quick wit. Second, he has many negative things to say about the role of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, acting as President Trump’s personal lawyer and also as a player in U.S.-Ukrainian relations. Democrats will use Kent’s testimony to lay the foundation for an attack on Giuliani that they hope will paint the president in the worst possible light as well.

(Giuliani also published an op-ed on Tuesday evening in the Wall Street Journal, which will appear in print on Wednesday:  “My client’s call with the Ukrainian president was innocent, and the House inquiry is a travesty.”)

Key Democratic Talking Points

1. Kent will testify that he believes that Giuliani, through dubious sources in Ukraine, was part of a “campaign of slander” that led to President firing Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. One of the key articles in the campaign was published by John Solomon in The Hill, in which former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko claimed that Yovanovitch had given him a “do not prosecute” list. She was alleged to be anti-Trump. She denies all of the claims.

  • What Democrats aren’t telling you: Yovanovitch may be the innocent victim of a campaign of slander. However, new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Trump in their phone call that he also thought she was “bad.” He said: “I agree with you 100%. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough.” All ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the president; there was nothing illegal in her dismissal.

2. In their summary of Kent’s testimony, Democrats claim: “With respect to President Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Biden, Mr. Kent stated: ‘I do not believe the U.S. should ask other countries to engage in politically associated investigations and prosecutions.’” He also said that Trump’s actions were wrong.

  • What Democrats aren’t telling you: Kent only learned about the request because the president released the transcript. He also had no firsthand knowledge of any connection between aid and investigations. Asked by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), “Do you have any firsthand knowledge of United States aid to Ukraine ever being connected to the opening of a new investigation?”, Kent answered: “I do not have direct knowledge, no.”

3. Kent told the closed-door hearing that he had heard from Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland that “POTUS wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to microphone and say investigations, Biden, and Clinton.”

  • What Democrats aren’t telling you: Kent himself expressed misgivings about Hunter Biden serving on the board of Burisma, a company associated with Ukrainian corruption.  He testified that in 2015, “I raised my concerns [with the vice president’s staff] that I had heard that Hunter Biden was on the board of a company owned by somebody that the U.S. Government had spent money trying to get tens of milljons of dollars back and that could create the perception of a conflict of interest.” He was told that then-Vice President Joe Biden could not be reached to deal with the problem because Biden’s other son, Beau, was dying of cancer. Hunter continued on the board, even though, Kent said, there were concerns in the State Department about Burisma.

Another key point: Kent testified the U.S. has made aid to Ukraine conditional on reform in the past. For example, the U.S. made sovereign loan guarantees from 2014-2016 conditional on reform in the Ukrainian prosecution services. Asked whether he thought former Vice President Biden had used a “quid pro quo” in his now-infamous threat to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid unless Ukraine fired its chief prosecutor, Kent said he preferred the term “conditionality for assistance,” saying that governments use it, as well as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). (Read more: Breitbart, 11/13/2019)  (Archive)

October 14, 2019 – Fiona Hill fails the truth test — reveals her value as a Kremlin agent

“In the mind of Fiona Hill (lead image, right), the recently departed senior director for Russia at the National Security Council (NSC), everybody in Washington is vulnerable to Russian attacks of one kind or another, but not her.

Instead, she admitted in testimony to the Congressional committees investigating impeachment evidence against President Donald Trump,  that she’s on an attack operation of her own.  “I’m sorry to be very passionate but this is precisely…why I joined the [Trump] administration. I didn’t join it because I thought the Ukrainians had been going after the President.”  She says the reason she joined up was to fight the Russians.

“I thought it was very important to step up, as an expert, as somebody who’s been working on Russia for basically my whole entire adult 1ife, given what had happened in 2016 and given the peril that I actually thought that we were in as a democracy, given what the Russians I know to have done in the course of the 2016 elections… I’m extremely concerned that this is a rabbit hole that we’ re all going to go down in between now and the 2020 election, and it will be to all of our detriment.”

Hill testified that she’s certain that “what happened in 2016” was that the Kremlin intervened to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. “We’re in peril as a democracy because of other people interfering here. And it doesn’t mean to say that other people haven’t also been trying to do things, but the Russians were [the ones] who attacked us in 2016, and they’re now writing the script for others to do the same. And if we don’t get our act together, they will continue to make fools of us internationally.”

“He’s [President Vladimir Putin] looking out there for every opening that he can find, basically, and somebody’s vulnerability to turn that against them. That’s exactly what a case officer does. They get a weakness, and they blackmail their assets. And Putin will target world leaders and other officials like this. He tries to target everybody.”

So, in the logic of Hill’s analysis of how the Russians operate against everybody, including herself, what evidence is there that Hill hasn’t, by concealment, calculation, corruption, or by mistake, succumbed to Putin’s attack,  too? Not once was Hill asked by either the Democrats or Republicans during the deposition, nor did she volunteer her own explanation, of how she managed to inoculate herself and is now telling the truth.

If Hill is telling the truth, and equally if she isn’t,  she has inflicted serious damage on her own colleagues and superiors,   the US Government’s Russia-hating professionals. In her testimony Hill depicts them as lying to each other and to the press; constantly scheming for and against the President; incapable of coordination among themselves, agreement with their allies, or negotiation with their enemies. Most valuable of all to the Kremlin, Hill reveals that the American warfighter is predictable in everything he or she understands, plans or does.

To reveal this much is precious intelligence for Moscow because the Russian secret services and Putin would be less willing to believe it if it had come from home-grown agents. Either Hill is a willing dupe, or she is the fool she is warning her colleagues to beware of.

On October 14, Hill gave ten hours of question-and-answer testimony before the Congressional committees on intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight. The record comprises 446 pages of verbatim transcript. This has just been released in unclassified, partially redacted form; click to read in full.

(…) Hill’s testimony reveals, though she doesn’t admit it, that Trump had come to distrust the intelligence analysis and policy advice he was getting from Hill as the coordinator of all the government agencies involved in Ukraine and Russia. She admitted to knowing little personally and directly of what Trump and his senior aides and advisors discussed and decided among themselves. What she knew was indirect, down the White House staff chain,  and by hearsay.

Her preoccupation, Hill emphasized repeatedly, was with Russian plotting in Washington, and in Hill’s assessment, the Russian successes. Christopher Steele, whom Hill had known as her counterpart intelligence officer for Russia at the British MI6 years before, had been lured, she testified, by the Russians into the “rabbit hole” Hill called the Golden Showers dossier.   Victoria Nuland, former Assistant Secretary of State, was tricked by the Russians into promoting the Steele dossier to NSC officials. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, ex-Ambassador to Ukraine, was victimized by the Russians who eavesdropped on his telephone calls with Nuland when he and she were plotting the Kiev putsch of February 2014.

Left to right: Christopher Steele; Victoria Nuland; Geoffrey Pyatt. (Credit: John Helmer)

Hill swore on oath that she too was targeted by Russian agents when she was writing her last book on President Vladimir Putin in 2012.   “My phone was hacked repeatedly, and the Brookings system was hacked repeatedly,” she told the Congressmen. “And at one point, it was clearly obvious that someone had exfiltrated out my draft…And then, mysteriously, after this I started to get emails from people who purported to have met me at different points in my career, people I kind of vaguely remember. I’d look online, and there would be these, you know, Linkedln pages or there might be, you know, something I could find out some information for them. And they’d start offering me information, you know, that somehow purported to, strangely enough, some of the chapters that I was actually working on. And when I would go to meetings in Russia, people would basically, you know so that I was being played, or they were attempting to play me as well.”

Hill was not asked if she reported this to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at the time.  That she didn’t report the alleged plot not only discredits her making the allegation now, seven years later; it also warns the Russian services to tell Putin that there is nothing US officials like Hill don’t imagine or won’t fabricate.

For Hill, those Americans who have been targeted the most are so obviously innocent, it’s a Russian operation to think, say, broadcast or publish otherwise. She is convinced, for example,  of the innocence of former Vice President Joseph Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in taking money from Ukrainians seeking to influence US policy, when they were in charge, or when Clinton was running for president. (Hill said she is just as certain Paul Manafort was guilty of taking Ukrainian money.)

As for the current allegation against the Bidens, father and son, that they were corruptly trading US Government favour for cash paid through the Ukrainian oil and gas exploration company Burisma, Hill revealed she had seen no intelligence report on the subject during her time in office. “From your knowledge of Burisma, are they a corrupt company? DR. HILL: I don’t know a lot about Burisma, I’ll be frank… And you never heard of any reason why anybody should be investigating Vice President Biden? A[nswer]. …correct… And are you aware of any evidence that Vice President Joe Biden in any way acted inappropriately while he was Vice President…A[nswer]. I’m not.”

For details of the Burisma case, and the involvement of Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, read this.

Hill also expressed the unqualified conclusion, after her professional assessment of the US intelligence, that the narrative of the anti-Trump forces in Congress and the press is accurate.  “Do you have any reason,” she was asked by Daniel Goldman, head of investigations for the intelligence committee, “to doubt either the facts alleged in the [Mueller] indictment or the Intelligence Community’s assessment that Russia did interfere in the 2016 election? A[nswer]: I do not. Q. And do you have any reason to believe that Ukraine did interfere in the 2016 election? A[nswer]: I do not. We’re talking about the Ukrainian Government here when you say Ukraine, correct? A. Yes. Yes, I do not.”

Neither Goldman nor the Republican Congressmen asked Hill what she knew of Victor Pinchuk, the Ukrainian oligarch acting for the Ukrainian Government in sending large sums of money to the Clinton Foundation and Hill’s employer, Brookings.”  (Read more: John Helmer, 11/12/2019) (Archive)

September 26, 2019 – The anonymous “hearsay whistleblower” complaint re Trump/Zelensky call, is released (pdf)

Eric Ciaramella

“If you have read any of the documents that came from Fusion-GPS, Nellie Ohr and Christopher Steele, you will likely find an amazing amount of similarity to the format and writing in this “whistleblower” complaint.

It was obviously written by a Lawfare member.

The complaint is the same structure as the Steele Dossier.  No direct knowledge; no direct evidence to the claims; second-hand gossip, rumors from people who might have known another person to have overheard something, mixed with prior media reports to narrate a story as told by the author. Here is the complaint:

The complaint is based on the July 25th phone call between President Trump and President Zelenskyy of Ukraine.  Here’s the transcript of that call:

The Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) is Michael K Atkinson.  ICIG Atkinson is the official who accepted the ridiculous premise of a hearsay ‘whistle-blower‘ complaint; an intelligence whistleblower who was “blowing-the-whistle” based on second-hand information of a phone call without any direct personal knowledge, ie ‘hearsay‘.

Michael K Atkinson was previously the Senior Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General of the National Security Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ-NSD) in 2016. That makes Atkinson senior legal counsel to John Carlin and Mary McCord who were the former heads of the DOJ-NSD in 2016 when the stop Trump operation was underway.

If the DOJ-NSD exploitation of the NSA database, and/or DOJ-NSD FISA abuse, and/or DOJ-NSD FARA corruption were ever to reach sunlight, current ICIG Atkinson -as the lawyer for the process- would be under a lot of scrutiny for his involvement.

Yes, that gives current ICIG Michael Atkinson a strong and corrupt motive to participate with the Schiff/Lawfare impeachment objective.

Atkinson’s conflict-of-self-interest, and/or possible blackmail upon him by deep state actors who most certainly know his compromise, likely influenced his approach to this whistleblower complaint.   That would explain why the Dept. of Justice Office of Legal Counsel so strongly rebuked Atkinson’s interpretation of his responsibility with the complaint.

In the Justice Department’s OLC opinion, they point out that Atkinson’s internal justification for accepting the whistleblower complaint was poor legal judgment.  [See Here]  I would say Atkinson’s decision is directly related to his own risk exposure:

(Read more: Conservative Treehouse, 9/26/2019)

July 21, 2018 – The FISA applications relied on hearsay from tertiary sources

“The newly released FISA applications also confirm a fourth significant fact: To obtain the surveillance warrant, the DOJ and FBI relied on unverified hearsay from sub-sources (i.e., Steele’s sources) of unknown reliability.

While the government may rely on unverified information provided by an informant who has a history of providing reliable information, to establish probable cause with evidence coming from a source of unknown reliability, the government must corroborate that information. The FISA applications make no mention of corroboration of the sub-sources’ claims concerning Page’s purported conversations with two Russian agents.

Further, the FISA applications reveal that the DOJ only established Steele’s reliability, not that of “sub-sources.” But as former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy first highlighted in February 2018:

The only reliability that counts is the reliability of the factual informants, not of the investigator who purports to channel the informants. The judge wants to know why the court should believe the specific factual claims: Was the informant truly in a position to witness what is alleged, and if so, does the informant have a track record of providing verified information? The track record of the investigator who locates the sources is beside the point. A judge would need to know whether Steele’s sources were reliable, not whether Steele himself was reliable.

While we do not know what lay behind the redacted portions of the applications, it seems clear from the placement, context, size of the blackouts that the FBI did not include information in the application either establishing the sub-sources’ reliability or detailing any efforts to corroborate Page’s claimed collusion with the Russian agents.” (Read more: The Federalist, 7/23/2018)  (Archive)