immunity

August 13, 2019 – Spygate professor, Stefan Halper, claims immunity against Russian/British academic Svetlana Lokhova’s lawsuit

Svetlana Lokhova says she is a writer, not a spy — ‘people need to be able to differentiate.’ (Credit: Valentine Vermeil/REA)

“Stefan Halper, the former Cambridge University professor who allegedly met with several Trump campaign aides as an FBI informant, asked a federal judge Tuesday to dismiss a defamation lawsuit that a Russian-British academic filed against him in May, saying government agents have immunity from litigation.

Halper does not confirm he was an FBI informant in his motion to dismiss. He also does not admit to being a source for articles about Svetlana Lokhova, the Russia-born academic. But he argues that if he were an FBI informant, he would have immunity afforded to other government agents.

“Private individuals who participate in FBI investigations are subject to the federal common law qualified immunity applicable to government agents,” wrote Halper’s lawyers, Terrance Reid, Robert Moir, and Robert Luskin.

“This immunity justifies dismissal here.”

Lokhova, who studied Soviet-era espionage at Cambridge, sued Halper and several news outlets May 23, accusing all of defaming her over contacts she had in February 2014 with Michael Flynn, who then served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Sir Richard Dearlove (l), Christopher Andrew (c), then-DIA Director Michael Flynn (r), at Cambridge University, Feb. 28, 2014. (Credit: Svetlana Lokhova)

Lokhova alleged Halper planted false rumors that she and Flynn began an improper relationship during the 2014 event, which was hosted by the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar. Halper was a co-convener of the seminar, which hosts current and former Western intelligence operatives.

Sir Christopher Andrew, who was Lokhova’s mentor at Cambridge and a close Halper associate, was the author of the first innuendo-laced article about Lokhova and Flynn. Published days after Flynn was fired as national security adviser, Andrew wrote of the retired lieutenant general’s visit to Cambridge, where he allegedly struck up a quick friendship with a Russia-born woman later identified as Lokhova.

That essay was the basis for follow-up reports The Wall Street Journal and Guardian published in March 2017. Neither of the stories explicitly accused Lokhova of being a Russian spy or of trying to seduce Flynn. Instead, they reported that the 2014 encounter had been disclosed to U.S. intelligence authorities and that Flynn had failed to disclose his contact with Lokhova to DIA.

The tipster who warned U.S. officials about Flynn and Lokhova has not been identified.

The New York Times and Washington Post identified Halper as a longtime FBI informant in articles published in May and June 2018. The NYT also reported that Halper has been a CIA source. Halper was once son-in-law to Ray Cline, a top CIA official in the 1960s and 1970s. Halper also worked closely during the 1980 Ronald Reagan campaign with a team of former CIA officers.

The government has not confirmed that Halper worked as an informant for the FBI or any other government agency during the Trump-Russia probe. (Read more: The Daily Caller, 8/13/2019)

October 3, 2018 – James Baker testimony reveals he met with Larry Klayman regarding CIA/NSA whistleblower, Dennis Montgomery, and played a role in his immunity deal

Larry Klayman (l) and Dennis Montgomery (Credit: public domain)

On the same day House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes gave a press conference disclosing that President Trump had been under “incidental surveillance,” attorney and FreedomWatch chairman, Larry Klayman, sent a letter to the same committee, imploring them to pursue the claims and evidence presented under oath at a Washington DC FBI Field Office by his client, CIA/NSA whistleblower Dennis Montgomery, who Klayman claims “holds the keys to disproving the false claims that there is no evidence that the president and his men were wiretapped.”

When Montgomery attempted to deliver this information through the appropriate channels, he was met with closed doors.

In a March 2017 Newsmax article, Klayman writes:

(…) “Montgomery left the NSA and CIA with 47 hard drives and over 600 million pages of information, much of which is classified, and sought to come forward legally as a whistleblower to appropriate government entities, including congressional intelligence committees, to expose that the spy agencies were engaged for years in systematic illegal surveillance on prominent Americans, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, other justices, 156 judges, prominent businessmen such as Donald Trump, and even yours truly. Working side by side with Obama’s former Director of National Intelligence (DIA), James Clapper, and Obama’s former Director of the CIA, John Brennan, Montgomery witnessed “up close and personal” this “Orwellian Big Brother” intrusion on privacy, likely for potential coercion, blackmail or other nefarious purposes.” 

(…) “After Montgomery was turned away as a whistleblower, he came to me at Freedom Watch. With the aid of the Honorable Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who I had come to respect and trust over the years of my public interest advocacy, we brought Montgomery forward to FBI Director James Comey, through his General Counsel James Baker. Under grants of immunity, which I obtained through Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Curtis, Montgomery produced the hard drives and later was interviewed under oath in a secure room at the FBI Field Office in the District of Columbia. There he laid out how persons like then-businessman Donald Trump were illegally spied upon by Clapper, Brennan, and the spy agencies of the Obama administration. He even claimed that these spy agencies had manipulated voting in Florida during the 2008 presidential election, which illegal tampering resulted in helping Obama to win the White House.

This interview, conducted and videoed by Special FBI Agents Walter Giardina and William Barnett, occurred almost two years ago, and nothing that I know of has happened since. It would appear that the FBI’s investigation was buried by Comey, perhaps because the FBI itself collaborates with the spy agencies to conduct illegal surveillance. In landmark court cases which I filed after the revelations of Edward Snowden, the Honorable Richard Leon, a colleague of Judge Lamberth, had ruled that this type of surveillance constituted a gross violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

Deborah Curtis, the DoJ attorney who helped Montgomery receive a grant of immunity, also served on Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation team.

Here is the relevant testimony in James Baker’s transcript release:

May 2018 – WikiLeaks veteran flips on Assange for immunity

David House (Credit: Elise Amendola)

“A WikiLeaks volunteer and friend of Chelsea Manning agreed to cooperate with the US Justice Department and appear in front of an Alexandria, VA grand jury in exchange for immunity [in May 2018], reports the Daily Beast.

“I decided to cooperate in exchange for immunity,” said David House – a computer science graduate and political activist who previously refused to testify against Julian Assange in 2011, only to be subpoenaed last May for an encore appearance in front of a grand jury that’s been investigating the WikiLeaks founder for almost nine years.

“You know, I’m walking around on the street out here. I’m not in an embassy,” he added.

House spoke briefly with prosecutors and then testified for about 90 minutes in front of the grand jury, he said. “They wanted to know about my meetings with Assange, they wanted to know broadly about what we talked about,” he recalled. Prosecutors seemed particularly interested in the potential for collateral damage in some of Assange’s leaks. The identities of some American collaborators were exposed in Assange’s release of State Department cables and Army field reports from Afghanistan, which triggered internal debate and led to the departure of some of WikiLeaks’ key staffers early on. –Daily Beast

“They showed me chat logs in which I was arguing vehemently with him about releasing documents that would leave people vulnerable and put people’s lives at risk,” said House. “That was the only thing they put in front of my face that made me think, ‘This may be what they’re going after him for.’”

Chelsea Manning, meanwhile has refused to comply with a March 5 subpoena in the same case – making good on a vow to fight the subpoena in court.

“I am not going to contribute to a process that I feel is dangerous and could potentially place me in a position where I am forced to backtrack on the truth,” Manning told the New York Times.” (Read more: Zero Hedge, 3/02/2019)

The FBI allegedly has not destroyed the laptops of two Clinton aides, and their immunity deals may have been voided.

In October 2016, it was reported that Clinton’s aides Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson got immunity deals in return for their cooperation in the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, and in return for turning over their computer laptops, the FBI promised to destroy those laptops after analyzing the data on them.

However, on this day, Fox News reporter Bret Baier claims, “As a result of the limited immunity deals to top aides, including Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, the Justice Department had tentatively agreed that the FBI would destroy those laptops after a narrow review. We are told definitively that has not happened. Those devices are currently in the FBI field office here in Washington, DC, and are being exploited. The source points out that any immunity deal is null and void if any subject lied at any point in the investigation.” (Real Clear Politics, 11/2/2016)

The FBI never asked Clinton’s aides for all their computers and mobile devices.

Politico reports that the FBI never asked Clinton’s top aides for their computers and mobile devices as part of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. An unnamed source familiar with the investigation says, “No one was asked for devices by the FBI.”

Because the investigation didn’t have subpoena power, it could only ask for people to cooperate, or make immunity deals with them. The FBI did make an effort to get Clinton’s computers and mobile devices, and made immunity deals with Clinton lawyers Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson to get their computer laptops, but FBI requests didn’t go much beyond that.

Bob Goodlatte (Credit: Bill O'Leary / Getty Images)

Bob Goodlatte (Credit: Bill O’Leary / Getty Images)

Bob Goodlatte (R), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, says, “The more we learn about the FBI’s initial investigation into Secretary Clinton’s unauthorized use of a private email server, the more questions we have about the thoroughness of the investigation and the administration’s conclusion to not prosecute her for mishandling classified information.”

Politico suggests that the FBI might not have asked for what Clinton’s aides possessed because of a focus on Clinton and her server and mobile devices. “It’s also possible the FBI or prosecutors elected not to demand all the Clinton aides’ computers and other electronics because doing so might have triggered a legal battle that could have slowed the probe.”

The issue about what Clinton’s aides may have possessed came to the fore after the FBI reopened the Clinton email investigation after emails belonging to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin were discovered on a computer owned by her estranged husband Anthony Weiner. In an April 2016 FBI interview and then in a public deposition in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in June 2016, Abedin said she gave her lawyers all devices she thought might contain State Department-related emails. However, it appears no government entity ever asked for any of her devices, so her lawyers never gave them up to anyone.

Abedin was asked for all her work-related emails from her time in the State Department in another FOIA lawsuit, but not the computers or devices the emails were stored on.

The same appears to be true for other top Clinton aides like Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, Bryan Pagliano, and others, with the few exceptions noted above.(Politico, 11/1/2016)

Former Attorney General Mukasey claims Comey is in a no-win situation due to his earlier failure to pursue a vigorous Clinton email investigation.

Michael Mukasey (Credit: The Associated Press)

Michael Mukasey (Credit: The Associated Press)

Michael Mukasey, the US attorney general from 2007 to 2009, writes an editorial in the Wall Street Journal with the title: “The FBI Director’s Dishonorable Choice.”

He suggests that FBI Director James Comey’s recent highly controversial reopening of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation shortly before the 2016 US presidential election is due to earlier mistakes Comey made in the investigation.

“Recall that Mr. Comey’s authority extends only to supervising the gathering of facts to be presented to Justice Department lawyers for their confidential determination of whether those facts justify a federal prosecution. Nonetheless, in July [2016] he announced that ‘no reasonable prosecutor’ would seek to charge her with a crime, although Mrs. Clinton had classified information on a private non-secure server—at least a misdemeanor under one statute; and although she was ‘extremely careless’ in her handling of classified information such that it was exposed to hacking by hostile foreign nations—a felony under another statute; and apparently had caused the destruction of emails—a felony under two other statutes.”

He continues, “Those decisions were not his to make, nor were the reasons he offered for making them at all tenable: that prosecutions for anything but mishandling large amounts of classified information, accompanied by false statements to investigators, were unprecedented; and that criminal prosecutions for gross negligence were constitutionally suspect.”

He also points to immunity deals made with key suspects that even included destroying their computers after limited searches, and a failure to get to the bottom of computer technician Paul Combetta’s destruction of Clinton’s emails in March 2015, supposedly done entirely on his own for no clear motive. “Why would an FBI director, who at one time was an able and aggressive prosecutor, agree to such terms or accept such a fantastic story?”

He also claims that emails between President Obama and Clinton on her private server suggested that “if Mrs. Clinton was at criminal risk for communicating on her non-secure system, so was [Obama].” The FBI needs the cooperation of a grand jury, and only the legal authority of a grand jury would give the FBI subpoena power to conduct a real investigation. If Attorney General Loretta Lynch refused to allow a grand jury, Comey “could have gone public with his request, and threatened to resign if it was not followed. … Instead, Mr. Comey acceded to the apparent wish of President Obama that no charges be brought.”

That lack of courage put Comey in his no-win situation when more evidence happened to come to light shortly before Election Day. (The Wall Street Journal, 10/30/2016)

An unnamed high-ranking FBI official claims that the “vast majority” of agents working on the FBI’s Clinton email investigation believe Clinton should have been indicted.

The “high-ranking FBI official” speaks to Fox News on the condition of anonymity, but the person’s “identity and role in the case has been verified by FoxNews.com.” According to this source, “No trial level attorney agreed, no agent working the case agreed, with the decision not to prosecute” anyone in the investigation at all, but “it was a top-down decision” by FBI Director James Comey.

The source says that when it came to Clinton specifically, “It is safe to say the vast majority felt she should be prosecuted. We were floored while listening to the FBI briefing [on July 5, 2016] because Comey laid it all out, and then said ‘but we are doing nothing,’ which made no sense to us.” And while it might not have been a totally unanimous decision to recommend Clinton’s indictment, “It was unanimous that we all wanted her [Clinton’s] security clearance yanked.” However, even that never happened, despite it being standard procedure in similar cases.

The source adds that FBI agents were particularly upset that Comey unilaterally made the decision not to indict when the FBI’s role is merely to present an investigative report to the Justice Department. “Basically, James Comey hijacked the [Justice Department]’s role by saying ‘no reasonable prosecutor would bring this case.’ The FBI does not decide who to prosecute and when, that is the sole province of a prosecutor. … I know zero prosecutors in the [Justice Department]’s National Security Division who would not have taken the case to a grand jury. One was never even convened.” Without a grand jury, FBI agents were not allowed to issue subpoenas or search warrants and could only request evidence and interviews.

The source also complains that the FBI required its agents and analysts involved in the investigation to sign non-disclosure agreements. “This is unheard of, because of the stifling nature it has on the investigative process.”

Furthermore, immunity deals were made with five key figures in the investigation: Cheryl Mills, Bryan Pagliano, Paul Combetta, John Bentel, and Heather Samuelson. The source says none of them should have been granted immunity if no charges were being brought. “[Immunity] is issued because you know someone possesses evidence you need to charge the target, and you almost always know what it is they possess. That’s why you give immunity. … Mills and Samuelson receiving immunity with the agreement their laptops would be destroyed by the FBI afterwards is, in itself, illegal. We know those laptops contained classified information. That’s also illegal, and they got a pass.”

Additionally, “Mills was allowed to sit in on the interview of Clinton as her lawyer. That’s absurd. Someone who is supposedly cooperating against the target of an investigation [being] permitted to sit by the target as counsel violates any semblance of ethical responsibility.”

The source also comments, “Every agent and attorney I have spoken to is embarrassed and has lost total respect for James Comey and [Attorney General] Loretta Lynch. The bar for [the Justice Department] is whether the evidence supports a case for charges — it did here. It should have been taken to the grand jury.”

Finally, the source claims that many in the FBI and the Justice Department believe Comey and Lynch were motivated by ambition instead of justice. “Loretta Lynch simply wants to stay on as attorney general under Clinton, so there is no way she would indict. James Comey thought his position [heavily criticizing Clinton even as he decides against indicting her] gave himself cover to remain on as director regardless of who wins.”

Andrew Napolitano (Credit: Fox News)

Andrew Napolitano (Credit: Fox News)

Andrew Napolitano, a former judge and judicial analyst for Fox News, also claims to know of many law enforcement agents involved with the Clinton email investigation who have similar beliefs. He says, “It is well known that the FBI agents on the ground, the human beings who did the investigative work, had built an extremely strong case against Hillary Clinton and were furious when the case did not move forward. They believe the decision not to prosecute came from the White House.” (Fox News, 10/12/2016)

The next day, Malia Zimmerman, a co-writer of the article, is questioned on Fox News television. She claims that she has been speaking to other disgruntled FBI agents as well. “They’re saying that the morale is very low and that a lot of them are looking for other jobs. They’re very disappointed. They feel like the agency has been polluted… and they’re embarrassed. They feel like they’ve been betrayed.”

She adds that some of her sources might be willing to speak on the record if they retire or change jobs, which some of them are in the process of doing. But they are currently worried about retaliation. “There are a lot of disgruntled agents, analysts, and [Justice Department] attorneys as well.” These people feel Clinton could have been charged for various reasons, but her 22 “top secret” emails made the most compelling case. (Fox News, 10/13/2016)

The Justice Department allegedly made immunity side deals that ordered the destruction of key evidence and limited what the FBI could search.

Devin Nunes (Credit: public domain)

Devin Nunes (Credit: public domain)

The chairs of several House and Senate committees write a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, with questions about the limitations the Justice Department placed on the investigation of Clinton’s private server. The signatories of this letter are: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R), Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R), House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R), and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes (R).

According to the letter, recently released documents suggest the department, “agreed to substantial and inappropriate limitations on the scope of [the FBI’s Clinton email] investigation.” The restrictions were discovered in the course of the committees’ review of the immunity agreements for former Clinton staffers Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson.

Here are some key excerpts from the letter:

  • “We write to express our concerns about the process by which Congress was allowed to view the [Beth] Wilkinson letters, that the letters inappropriately restrict the scope of the FBI’s investigation, and that the FBI inexplicably agreed to destroy the laptops knowing that the contents were the subject of Congressional subpoenas and preservation letters.” (Wilkinson is the lawyer to both Mills and Samuelson.)
  • “These limitations would necessarily have excluded, for example, any emails from Cheryl Mills to [Platte River Networks employee] Paul Combetta in late 2014 or early 2015 directing the destruction or concealment of federal records. Similarly, these limitations would have excluded any email sent or received by Secretary Clinton if it was not sent or received by one of the four email addresses listed, or the email address was altered.”
  • “Further, the Wilkinson letters memorialized the FBI’s agreement to destroy the laptops. This is simply astonishing given the likelihood that evidence on the laptops would be of interest to congressional investigators.”
  • “The Wilkinson letters raise serious questions about why [the Justice Department] would consent to such substantial limitations on the scope of its investigation, and how Director Comey’s statements on the scope of the investigation comport with the reality of what the FBI was permitted to investigate.”

In closing, so that the committee chairs can better understand the DOJ’s basis for agreeing to these restrictions, the letter includes eleven questions for Loretta Lynch, and answers must be submitted no later than October 19, 2016. (US Congress, 10/05/2016)

Comey suggests he didn’t try to get subpoena power for the Clinton email investigation in order to complete it faster.

Representative Tom Marino (Credit: Getty Images)

Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Tom Marino (R) asks FBI Director James Comey why he made immunity deals with key figures in the Clinton email investigation instead of using subpoena power. In particular, he wants to know why deals were made to get access to the laptops of Clinton’s lawyers Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson.

Comey replies, “Anytime you’re talking about the prospect of subpoenaing a computer from a lawyer, it involves the lawyer’s practice of law, you know you’re getting into a big Megillah.”

Marino, who was a district attorney and US attorney before being elected to Congress, then asks, “I understand that, clearly. Why did you not decide to go to an investigative grand jury? It would have been cleaner, it would have been much simpler, and you would have had more authority to make these witnesses testify. Not the target, but the witnesses testify. That seems the way to go, Director. We’ve done it thousands of times. This was just too convoluted.”

Comey replies, “Again, I need to steer clear of talking about grand jury use in a particular matter. In general, in my experience, you can often do things faster with informal agreements, especially when you’re interacting with lawyers. In this particular investigation, the investigative team really wanted to get access to the laptops that were used to sort these emails. Those are lawyers’ laptops. That is a very complicated thing. I think they were able to navigate it pretty well to get us access.”

Later in the hearing, Comey adds that the investigation “couldn’t be concluded professionally without doing our best to figure out what was on those laptops. So, getting the laptops was very important to me and to the investigative team.” (Politico, 11/1/2016) (C-SPAN, 9/28/2016)

In contradiction to his answer on this day, in April 2016, he said of the investigation, “The urgency is to do it well and promptly. And ‘well’ comes first.” And in May 2016, he said “I don’t tether to any external deadline” to finish the investigation, such as the Democratic convention in July 2016.

Comey isn’t sure if the FBI was aware of Paul Combetta’s Reddit posts and won’t comment if Combetta committed a crime by deleting them.

When FBI Director James Comey answers questions before a House Judiciary Committee public hearing, two of the committee members ask him key questions about Paul Combetta, the Platte River Networks (PRN) employee who helped manage Clinton’s private server.

Darrell Issa (Credit: Jeff Malet)

Darrell Issa (Credit: Jeff Malet)

Representative Darrell Issa (R) asks: “Director, I have a lot of concerns but one of them refers to Reddit. At the time that the Department of Justice at your behest, or your involvement, gave Paul Combetta immunity, did you do so knowing about all of the posts he had on Reddit…?”

Comey replies: “I am not sure sitting here. My recollection is and I’ll check this and fix it if I am wrong, that we had some awareness of the Reddit posts, I don’t know whether our folks had read them all or not. We had a pretty good understanding of what we thought he had done, but that is my best recollection.”

Issa then asks: “OK, in the last week, [Combetta] has been deleting [his] Reddit posts. Is that consistent with preserving evidence? … You know, I guess my question to you is, is he destroying evidence relevant to Congressional inquiries? And I will answer it for you: yes he is. And what are you going to do about it?”

Comey answers, “That’s not something I can comment on.”

Bob Goodlatte (Credit: Jacquelyn Martin / The Associated Press)

Bob Goodlatte (Credit: Jacquelyn Martin / The Associated Press)

Later in the same hearing, committee chair Representative Bob Goodlatte (R), similarly asks: “Paul Combetta, with PRN, posted to Reddit, asking how to strip out a VIP’s, very VIP email address from a bunch of archived email. … This clearly demonstrates actions taken to destroy evidence by those operating Sec Clinton’s private server and by her staff.  … [W]as the FBI aware of this Reddit post prior to offering Mr. Combetta immunity on May 3, 2016?”

Comey responds, “I am not sure. I know that our team looked at it. I don’t know whether they knew about it before then or not.” (House Judiciary Committee, 09/28/2016)