October 2017

October 31, 2017 – Editorial: The Papadopoulos Case

Andrew C. McCarthy (Credit: National Review)

By: Andrew C. McCarthy

(…) “Papadopoulos is a climber who was clearly trying to push his way into Trump World. We recall that much of the Republican foreign-policy clerisy shunned Trump during the campaign. Thus did comparatively obscure people like Carter Page get seats at the table. George Papadopoulos was another of these: a 30-year-old who graduated from DePaul in 2009, later got an M.A. from the London School of Economics, and did sporadic work for the Hudson Institute between 2011 and 2014.

While living in London in early March 2016, he spoke with an unidentified Trump-campaign official and learned he would be designated a foreign-policy adviser to the campaign. These arrangements are very loose. Papadopoulos was a fringe figure, not plugged into Trump’s inner circle.

In London, Papadopoulos met an unidentified Russian academic (referred to as “the Professor”), who claimed to have significant ties to Putin-regime officials and who took an interest in Papadopoulos only because he boasted of having Trump-campaign connections. There appears to be no small amount of puffery on all sides: Papadopoulos suggesting to the Russians that he could make a Trump meeting with Putin happen, and suggesting to the campaign that he could make a Putin meeting with Trump happen; the Professor putting Papadopoulos in touch with a woman who Papadopoulos was led to believe was Putin’s niece (she apparently is not); and lots and lots of talk about potential high- and low-level meetings between Trump-campaign and Putin-regime officials that never actually came to pass.

In the most important meeting, in London on April 26, 2016, the Professor told Papadopoulos that he (the Prof) had just learned that top Russian-government officials had obtained “dirt” on then-putative Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The dirt is said to include “thousands of emails” — “emails of Clinton.” The suggestion, of course, was that the Russians were keen to give this information to the Trump campaign.

This may raise the hopes of the “collusion with Russia” enthusiasts. But there are two problems here.

First, Papadopoulos was given enough misinformation that we can’t be confident (at least from what Mueller has revealed here) that the Professor was telling Papadopoulos the truth. Remember, by April 2016, it had been known for over a year that Hillary Clinton had used a private email system for public business and had tried to delete and destroy tens of thousands of emails. The Russians could well have been making up a story around that public reporting in order further to cultivate the relationship with Papadopoulos (whom they appear to have seen as potentially useful). Note that the Professor suggested the Russians had Clinton’s own emails. But the emails we know were hacked were not Clinton’s — they were the DNC’s and John Podesta’s (Hillary is on almost none of them). So, Papadopoulos’s Russian interlocutors could well have been weaving a tale based on what had been reported, rather than on what was actually hacked and ultimately released by WikiLeaks.

Second, and more significant: If the proof, at best, implies that the Russians acquired thousands of Clinton emails and then had to inform a tangential Trump campaign figure of this fact so he could pass it along to the campaign, that would mean Trump and his campaign had nothing to do with the acquisition of the emails.”  (Read more: National Review, 10/31/2017)

October 25, 2017 – Editorial: When Scandals Collide

Andrew C. McCarthy

By: Andrew McCarthy

(…) “we have learned finally, courtesy of the Washington Post, that Fusion GPS, the research firm that produced the notorious “Trump Dossier,” was funded by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Of course, the Clinton campaign and the DNC always want layers of deniability and obfuscation – and let’s note that it has served them well – so they hire lawyers to do the icky stuff rather than doing it directly. Then, when the you-know-what hits the fan, outfits like Fusion GPS try to claim that they can’t share critical information with investigators because of (among other things) attorney-client confidentiality concerns.

Here, the Clinton campaign and the DNC retained the law firm of Perkins Coie; in turn, one of its partners, Marc E. Elias, retained Fusion GPS. We don’t know how much Fusion GPS was paid, but the Clinton campaign and the DNC paid $9.1 million to Perkins Coie during the 2016 campaign (i.e., between mid-2015 and late 2016).

In its capacity as attorney for the DNC, Perkins Coie – through another of its partners, Michael Sussman – is also the law firm that retained CrowdStrike, the cyber security outfit, upon learning in April 2016 that the DNC’s servers had been hacked.

A friend draws my attention to an intriguing coincidence.

Interesting: Despite the patent importance of the physical server system to the FBI and Intelligence-Community investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the Bureau never examined the DNC servers. Evidently, the DNC declined to cooperate to that degree, and the Obama Justice Department decided not to issue a subpoena to demand that the servers be turned over (just like the Obama Justice Department decided not to issue subpoenas to demand the surrender of critical physical evidence in the Clinton e-mails investigation).

Instead, the conclusion that Russia is responsible for the invasion of the DNC servers rests on the forensic analysis conducted by CrowdStrike. Rather than do its own investigation, the FBI relied on a contractor retained by the DNC’s lawyers.” (Read more: National Review, 10/25/2017)

October 24, 2017 – Former Podesta Group executive says Mueller team is focusing primarily on Russian access to the Obama administration, the Clinton Foundation and Uranium One deal

“Tucker Carlson gave an explosive monologue last night after a former executive of the Podesta Group contacted the Fox host with “direct personal knowledge” of a report that former FBI director Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel is investigating the Washington Lobbying firm founded by John and Tony Podesta.

The former executive who has been “extensively” interviewed by Mueller’s team, said the FBI probe is now focusing on people in Washington who have worked as de-facto operatives on behalf of Russian government and business. To that end, Carlson’s source made several shocking claims about Paul Manafort and the Podesta Group peddling Russian influence throughout Washington D.C. – focusing primarily on access to the Obama administration, and heavily involved with the Clinton Foundation and the Uranium One deal.”

(…)  Details: 

  • Lobbyist and temporary Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is at the center of the Russia probe – however the scope of the investigation has broadened to include his activities prior to the 2016 election.
  • Manafort worked with the Podesta Group since at least 2011 on behalf of Russian interests, and was at the Podesta Group offices “all the time, at least once a month,” peddling Russian influence through a shell group called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU).
  • Manafort brought a “parade” of Russian oligarchs to congress for meetings with members and their staffs, however, the Russia’s “central effort” was the Obama Administration.
  • In 2013, John Podesta recommended that Tony hire David Adams, Hillary Clinton’s chief adviser at the State Department, giving them a “direct liaison” between the group’s Russian clients and Hillary Clinton’s State Department.
  • In late 2013 or early 2014, Tony Podesta and a representative for the Clinton Foundation met to discuss how to help Uranium One – the Russian owned company that controls 20 percent of American Uranium Production – and whose board members gave over $100 million to the Clinton Foundation.
  • “Tony Podesta was basically part of the Clinton Foundation.”
  • Believing she would win the 2016 election, Russia considered the Podesta Group’s connection to Hillary highly valuable.
  • Podesta Group is a nebulous organization with no board oversight and all financial decisions made by Tony Podesta. Carlson’s source said payments and kickbacks could be hard for investigators to trace, describing it as a “highly secret treasure trove.” One employee’s only official job was to manage Tony Podesta’s art collection, which could be used to conceal financial transactions.

(Read more: Zero Hedge, 10/25/2017)

October 24, 2017 – Trump urges CIA director Mike Pompeo to meet with former NSA official, William Binney

Former technical director of the National Security Agency (NSA) William Binney (Credit: Thomas Peter/Reuters)

“CIA Director Mike Pompeo met late last month with a former U.S. intelligence official who has become an advocate for a disputed theory that the theft of the Democratic National Committee’s emails during the 2016 presidential campaign was an inside job, rather than a hack by Russian intelligence.

Pompeo met on October 24 with William Binney, a former National Security Agency official-turned-whistleblower who co-authored an analysis published by a group of former intelligence officials that challenges the U.S. intelligence community’s official assessment that Russian intelligence was behind last year’s theft of data from DNC computers. Binney and the other former officials argue that the DNC data was “leaked,” not hacked, “by a person with physical access” to the DNC’s computer system.

In an interview with The Intercept, Binney said Pompeo told him that President Donald Trump had urged the CIA director to meet with Binney to discuss his assessment that the DNC data theft was an inside job. During their hour-long meeting at CIA headquarters, Pompeo said Trump told him that if Pompeo “want[ed] to know the facts, he should talk to me,” Binney said.

A senior intelligence source confirmed that Pompeo met with Binney to discuss his analysis, and that the CIA director held the meeting at Trump’s urging. The Intercept’s account of the meeting is based on interviews with Binney, the senior intelligence source, a colleague who accompanied Binney to CIA headquarters, and others who Binney told about the meeting. A CIA spokesperson declined to comment. “As a general matter, we do not comment on the Director’s schedule,” said Dean Boyd, director of the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs.” (The Intercept, 11/07/2017)

October 24, 2017 – CIA director Mike Pompeo meets with former NSA official, William Binney, to discuss the DNC “leak” vs “hack” theory

(Credit: public domain)

“CIA director Mike Pompeo met late last month with a former U.S. intelligence official who has become an advocate for a disputed theory that the theft of the Democratic National Committee’s emails during the 2016 presidential campaign was an inside job, rather than a hack by Russian intelligence.

Pompeo met on October 24 with William Binney, a former National Security Agency official-turned-whistleblower who co-authored an analysis published by a group of former intelligence officials that challenges the U.S. intelligence community’s official assessment that Russian intelligence was behind last year’s theft of data from DNC computers. Binney and the other former officials argue that the DNC data was “leaked,” not hacked, “by a person with physical access” to the DNC’s computer system.

In an interview with The Intercept, Binney said Pompeo told him that President Donald Trump had urged the CIA director to meet with Binney to discuss his assessment that the DNC data theft was an inside job. During their hour-long meeting at CIA headquarters, Pompeo said Trump told him that if Pompeo “want[ed] to know the facts, he should talk to me,” Binney said.

A senior intelligence source confirmed that Pompeo met with Binney to discuss his analysis, and that the CIA director held the meeting at Trump’s urging. The Intercept’s account of the meeting is based on interviews with Binney, the senior intelligence source, a colleague who accompanied Binney to CIA headquarters, and others who Binney told about the meeting. A CIA spokesperson declined to comment. “As a general matter, we do not comment on the Director’s schedule,” said Dean Boyd, director of the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs.

Binney said that Pompeo asked whether he would be willing to meet with NSA and FBI officials to further discuss his analysis of the DNC data theft. Binney agreed and said Pompeo said he would contact him when he had arranged the meetings.” (Read more: The Intercept, 11/07/2017)

October 16, 2017 – Grassley: Mueller team mischaracterizes Trump campaign emails in court filing

Mueller and team exit the Capitol in June, 2017. (Credit: Doug Mills/The New York Times)

“The special counsel’s office fed “speculation and innuendo” about possible collusion with Russia by withholding key details from emails cited in a court filing in the case of former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos, a top Republican senator alleged in a newly released letter.

“The public deserves to have the full context for the information the Special Counsel chooses to release. The glaring lack of it feeds speculation and innuendo that distorts the facts,” Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley wrote to special counsel Robert Mueller on Oct. 16, 2017.

Grassley, who then chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, was responding to a “statement of offense” released in the case against Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign adviser who entered a plea deal in the special counsel’s probe on Oct. 5, 2017.

Prosecutors quoted from several emails in a way that suggested top Trump campaign officials were eager to meet with Russians. But Grassley asserted that the full emails showed that campaign officials rebuffed the idea of meeting with Russians. The Iowa Republican took Mueller’s team to task for failing to correct news reports that cited the Papadopoulos court filings as evidence of possible collusion with Russia.

“It should be the goal of anyone interested in an accurate portrayal of the facts for the American people to correct the erroneous reporting,” he wrote in the letter, which was published Thursday by Fox News.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 4/05/2019)

October 13, 2017 – Samantha Power testifies intel officials made ‘unmasking’ requests in her name

Trey Gowdy walks on Capitol Hill, July 25, 2017. (Credit: Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press)

“House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy said Tuesday that President Obama’s former United Nations ambassador has testified that not all of the “unmasking” requests made in her name were directed by her.

Samantha Power testified in Gowdy’s committee last week, and Fox News reported weeks before her appearance that she was thought to have made as many as 260 requests to “unmask” Americans caught up in the surveillance of non-U.S. citizens.

But Tuesday evening, Gowdy told Fox News that Power told his committee that she was not the official requesting that unmasking in every case.

“I think if she were on your show, she would say those requests to unmask may have been attributed to her, but they greatly exceed by an exponential factor the requests she actually made,” Gowdy said.

“So, that’s her testimony, and she was pretty emphatic in it,” he added. “The intelligence community has assigned this number of requests to her. Her perspective, her testimony is, they may be under my name, but I did not make those requests.” (Read more: Washington Examiner, 10/17/2017)

October 5, 2017 – George Papadopoulos pleads guilty to lying to the FBI

George Papadopoulos (Credit: public domain)

“Papadopoulos pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to one count of lying to FBI agents about the nature of his interactions with “foreign nationals” who he thought had close connections to senior Russian government officials. The plea was unsealed Monday.

According to court documents, Papadopoulos misstated the timing of his interactions with an overseas professor [Joseph Mifsud] who apparently had connections to the Russian government. While Papadopoulos acknowledged that the professor had told him that the the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton — thousands of emails — he claimed that he had learned this before he joined the Trump campaign.

However, investigators found that Papadopoulos joined the campaign in early March 2016, and he met with the professor in mid-March 2016. Papadopoulos also claimed in his FBI interview that the professor was “a nothing,” and just a guy talking up his connections. But in fact, the 30-year-old senior foreign adviser was trying to make contact with the Kremlin through the professor’s connections.

Among those connections was a female Russian national who was described in Papadopoulos’ emails as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s niece (he later learned she was not related to Putin). Papadopoulos, according to the court documents, worked with the Russian national and the professor to set up a meeting between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. He also told advisers to the campaign that he could help arrange a meeting between Mr. Trump and Putin.

Papadopoulos told the FBI that he had done some “shuttle diplomacy” for the president, but he did not inform investigators about his interactions with the professor and the Russian national regarding his efforts to set up meetings between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

He also lied about the extent of his conversations with the Russian national, stating that the their communications were limited to emails that said “just, ‘Hi, how are you?'” and “‘That’s it,'” he told the FBI.” (Read more: CBS News, 10/30/2017)

 

October 1, 2017 – Former top FBI lawyer, James Baker, has been under federal investigation for media leaks, beginning under the Obama administration

“The former top lawyer at the FBI has been under federal investigation for leaking to the media, a letter from House Republicans revealed Tuesday.

The letter from GOP Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows cited the transcript of a congressional interview with former General Counsel James Baker and his lawyer last fall, where the probe conducted by seasoned U.S. Attorney John Durham was confirmed.

(Snippet from Jordan and Meadows letter)

“You may or may not know, [Baker has] been the subject of a leak investigation … a criminal leak investigation that’s still active at the Justice Department,” lawyer Daniel Levin told lawmakers, as he pushed back on questions about his client’s conversations with reporters.

Jordan and Meadows’ letter was sent to Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, and requested additional information about the probe later this month.

“As we continue our oversight and investigative work, we felt it prudent to write to you seeking an update. Without being apprised of the contours of your leak investigation and Baker’s role, we run the risk of inadvertently interfering with your prosecutorial plans,” they wrote.

A source familiar with the U.S. Attorney investigation told Fox News they believe the investigation of Baker remains open, adding they understand it began during the Obama administration and not in the course of the Russia investigation.

The transcript of the closed-door interview and the letter do not include details explaining why the investigation is being led out of the Connecticut office. The status of the investigation is not publicly known.

But the disclosure marks the latest confirmation of a leak investigation involving FBI figures who have since left the bureau. (Read more: Fox News, 1/15/2019)