Russiagate

November 4, 2019 – Lee Smith: The Plot Against Trump, From Spygate to Impeachment Inquiry (Video)

“Just why does investigative journalist Lee Smith believe the so-called “Steele dossier” was not actually written by Christopher Steele?

Who does he think did the authoring? How has the mainstream media been complicit in the Spygate scandal? What are the broader implications for America? And why does Smith believe that all of this, including the current impeachment inquiry against President Trump, is part of a broad coup attempt against the President?

This is American Thought Leaders and I’m Jan Jekielek.

Today we sit down with Hudson Institute senior fellow Lee Smith, author of “The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History.”

October 29, 2019 – Judicial Watch obtains emails between Bruce Ohr, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page —DOJ is still withholding a majority of these communications

(Graphic Credit: Truthfeed)

“Judicial Watch announced today it received through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit 13 pages out of 42 responsive pages of communications between former FBI official Peter Strzok and DOJ official Bruce Ohr that the DOJ claimed previously it could not find.

(…) In the lawsuit, Judicial Watch challenged the DOJ’s extraordinary claim that there were no records of communications between Strzok and Ohr in light of the preeminent role both individuals played in the anti-Trump collusion investigation. In addition, Ohr himself testified before Congress that he did, in fact, meet and communicate with Strzok.

The documents show contact between Ohr and Strzok in the weeks after the 2016 presidential election, during the presidential transition, and in the days following President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page arranges a November 21, 2016, meeting from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at FBI headquarters. “Required attendees” include Ohr, Strzok, and FBI Deputy Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Jonathan Moffa.

On November 29, 2016, Ohr attempts to arrange a meeting between Strzok, Page, himself, and Deputy Assistant Attorney General (Criminal Division) Bruce Swartz.

Ohr writes to Strzok and Page under the subject Meeting with Bruce Swartz: “Thanks again for taking the time to chat today. As I mentioned, I would like to set up a short meeting for us with Bruce Swartz. Would next Monday at 5:30 p.m. work? Also, is there any chance you guys could come over to our building?”

Page responds: “Unfortunately, Pete is briefing HPSCI [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] from 5-6:30 on Monday. Just about any other time that day would work. And we’re happy to come to you (especially because Bruce S. always has good snacks…)” [smile emoticon]

Ohr responds to Page: “No problem – is 6:30 (or later) that day too late? Otherwise we may be into the next week. I will ensure the snacks are up to snuff!”

Page writes to Ohr at 5:46 p.m.: “Unfortunately, it is. Have a flight later that night. Sorry about that.”

Ohr responds at 6:32 p.m.: “Got it. I’ll find a few dates/times for the week after and shoot them to you.”

A meeting with importance classified as “high” is scheduled for December 5, 2016. Strzok, Ohr and Swartz are scheduled to meet from 5:30 to 6 p.m. at Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) 2213, and later is canceled.

On January 4, 2017, a Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) official in the Office of Special Measures [a unit within FinCEN set up to sanction foreign and domestic financial institutions] forwards to Ohr an unclassified but fully redacted FinCEN document, which Ohr then forwards to Strzok on February 1, 2017.

Ohr writes to Strzok: “Pete – As we discussed. I will forward the classified document as well, as well as one more unclassified document.”

January 30, 2017, FinCEN sent protected information and its password to [Redacted].

On February 1, 2017, at 2:11 pm Lisa Holtyn, Ohr’s assistant, sends to members of Bruce Ohr’s former team at Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) password protected information from FinCEN, saying “I’ll send the password separately.” Minutes later, she sends the same email to Bruce Ohr. Seconds after that, Ohr forwards the email to Strzok, followed by the password.

“Ohr and Strzok clearly were working regularly with each other during the time the illicit Spygate operation heated up against President Trump,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It speaks volumes that Judicial Watch was forced to drag the DOJ and FBI into court in order to force the agency to admit to documents they’ve obviously had all along.” (Read more: Judicial Watch, 10/29/2019)  (Archive)

Sarah Carter writes in August 2018:

(…) “Ohr stated during his hours-long testimony that the FBI failed to disclose this pertinent information to the nation’s secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) when it sought an application to spy on Page. The FBI also failed to disclose that when it sought the application, it was using senior Justice Department official, Bruce Ohr as a cut-out for a source the bureau had terminated.

Ohr had also communicated with senior members of the FBI, including former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, FBI attorney Lisa Page, and former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, at the bureau but stated that his superiors at the Justice Department were not aware that he was being used as a source for the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign, according to sources who spoke to SaraACarter.com.” (Read more: Sarah Carter, 8/31/2018)

October 6, 2019 – In a single statement on MSNBC, John Brennan turns the foundation of American jurisprudence on its head

Apparently, the presumption of innocence is but a quaint memory now.

Brennan clarifies his true opinion of due process in an interview with Lawrence O’Donnell:

People are innocent, you know until alleged to be involved in some kind of criminal activity.”

This  also caught the attention of Glenn Greenwald and he tweets a video clip of Brennan’s recent comment as well as an additional example of his distorted opinion of our most basic rights:

October 3, 2019 – Former CIA director John Brennan to be interviewed by U.S. attorney John Durham

“Former CIA Director John Brennan said he is “concerned” about the Justice Department’s review of the origins of the Russia investigation.

The “investigation into the investigators” has been underway since the spring, and reports this week showed Attorney General William Barr has taken a more expansive role in it than previously known, pressing foreign leaders to cooperate with the DOJ.

During an interview Wednesday, Brennan said he is “supposedly” going to be interviewed by John Durham, the U.S. attorney tasked with leading the review. Brennan said by all accounts Durham is a man of “integrity” but added Barr has proven himself to be the “president’s attorney.”

“Given that Barr is now accompanying Durham on these things, it really makes me think that the hand of politics and of Trump are now being used to massage what this ongoing review quasi-investigation is. So I am concerned,” Brennan said on MSNBC.” (Read more: Washington Examiner, 10/03/2019)

October 2, 2019 – Senator Mark Warner says AG Barr is endangering relationships with key U.S. allies

Senator Warner lobby’s against William Barr’s nomination as AG in January, 2019. (Credit: public domain)

“Attorney General William Barr is harming America’s relationships with its closest allies by pressuring them to produce intelligence about the Russia investigation in an effort to help President Trump politically, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee charged Thursday in an exclusive interview with NBC News.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who has presided with his Republican counterpart over a two-year, bipartisan investigation into 2016 election interference efforts, said Barr’s outreach to foreign governments, confirmed by the Department of Justice, threatens to undermine decades of U.S. intelligence sharing.

“U.S. intelligence leaders have expressed their concerns to me privately on this,” said Warner, who is committee vice-chairman. “This idea that Australia’s intelligence product might be being used to go after a political opponent in domestic American politics… That’s just not what the intelligence community is about.”

The senator said he is particularly worried about the foreign requests and their impact on an intelligence-sharing pact known as the Five Eyes, which includes the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. Those countries cooperate extremely closely, sharing communications intercepts and other intelligence.

“Throughout the last 75 years, every administration has valued the sanctity of the five eyes relationship,” Warner said. “It appears this administration doesn’t value that relationship because if you did, you wouldn’t ask your allies for their intelligence for political purposes.”

Warner added: “Can you imagine if the CIA was asked to provide damaging evidence on a political opponent in Australia? There would be outrage in our political establishment.” (Read more: NBC News, 10/02/2019) (Mark Warner Tagged)

September 27, 2019 – Italian officials provide an audio recording of Joseph Mifsud’s deposition to AG Barr

(Credit: Communities Digital News)

“Attorney General William Barr reportedly listened to an audio recording of the mysterious professor at the center of the special counsel’s probe during a surprise trip last week to Italy.

Barr met with Italian intelligence officials during the trip, The Daily Beast reported citing Italian officials, and John Durham accompanied him. Durham is a federal prosecutor who is leading an inquiry into FBI and CIA intelligence-gathering activities related to the Trump campaign.

A source in Italy’s Ministry of Justice said that Italian officials played a tape for Barr and Durham, according to The Daily Beast. Another source said the Italians showed the U.S. officials other evidence related to Joseph Mifsud, who was once a Maltese diplomat and has held university positions in the U.K. and Italy.

The tape was a deposition that Mifsud gave after applying for police protection explaining why he might be in harm’s way, according to The Beast. The report said Italian Ministry of Justice records show that Mifsud applied for police protection.

Mifsud was scrutinized in the special counsel’s investigation because of his relationship in 2016 with George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide. Papadopoulos said Mifsud told him during an April 26, 2016 meeting in London that he had learned from Russian government officials that Russia had “dirt” on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands” of her emails.

(…) The special counsel portrayed Mifsud as a possible Russian agent; however, the Malta-born mystery man also has close ties to Western diplomats. He has visited the U.S. State Department and held a position at Rome’s Link Campus University, which has close ties to Western intelligence agencies.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 10/02/2019)  (Archive)

September 18, 2019 – Judicial Watch files a FOIA lawsuit for the records of FBI Special Agent Michael Gaeta

Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) for records about FBI Special Agent Michael Gaeta, who was the Legal Attaché in Rome who helped circulate the Steele dossier (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:19-cv-02722)).

The suit was filed after the Justice Department and FBI failed to respond to an August 10, 2018, FOIA requests seeking:

  • All records of communications, including emails (using [his or her] own name or aliases), text messages, instant chats and encrypted messages, sent to and from former FBI Legal Attaché in Rome, Special Agent Michael Gaeta, mentioning the terms “Trump”, “Clinton”, “Republican”, “Democrat”, and/or “conservatives.”
  • All SF50s and SF52s of SA Michael Gaeta.
  • All expense reports and travel vouchers submitted for SA Michael Gaeta.

On August 28, 2018, Bruce Ohr testified before a joint task force of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees that Christopher Steele, author of the Clinton funded dossier, gave two reports from the dossier to Gaeta.

In the July 30 meeting, Chris Steele also mentioned something about the doping — you know, one of the doping scandals. And he also mentioned, I believe — and, again, this is based on my review of my notes — that he had provided Mr. Gaeta with two reports…”

The only thing I recall him mentioning is that he had provided two of his reports to Special Agent Gaeta.

Gaeta reportedly was authorized by then Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland to meet with Steele at his office in London to receive reports from the dossier

The purpose of the London visit was clear. Steele was personally handing the first memo in his dossier to Gaeta for ultimate transmission back to the FBI and the State Department.

For this visit, the FBI sought permission from the office of Nuland, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. Nuland, who had been the recipient of many of Steele’s reports, gave permission for the more formal meeting. On July 5, 2016, Gaeta traveled to London and met with Steele at the offices of Steele’s firm, Orbis.

“The FBI is covering up its role in the Russiagate hoax,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch has had to fight the FBI ‘tooth and nail’ for every scrap of information about the illicit targeting of President Trump.” (Read more: September 18, 2019)

September 10, 2019 – Attorney Sidney Powell argues General Flynn’s case should be dismissed over ‘egregious government misconduct’

General Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell (Credit: Conservative Treehouse)

“An attorney for Michael Flynn said in federal court Tuesday she may seek a dismissal of charges against the former national security adviser, citing “egregious conduct and suppression” of exculpatory information in the case.

Prosecutors handling the case had a surprise of their own, telling Judge Emmet Sullivan that they are now reserving the option of recommending jail time for Flynn, instead of just probation. Prosecutors with the special counsel’s team last year recommended that Flynn receive probation without jail time because of his substantial cooperation in several investigations.

But Flynn’s situation has changed dramatically since then. He no longer has to meet with the special counsel’s team since the Russia probe has ended. And in Junehe hired a new legal team that has aggressively challenged the government’s investigation of Flynn.

Flynn’s defense attorney, Sidney Powell, told Judge Emmet Sullivan that the legal team has no plans to pull out of a plea deal that Flynn struck with the special counsel on Dec. 1, 2017. Instead, Powell is questioning the basis of the government’s case against Flynn and may seek to have charges thrown out altogether. (Read more: The Daily Caller, 9/10/2019)

July 30, 2019 – Secret McCabe texts with MI-5 counterpart emerge, spotlighting UK’s early role In Russiagate

Jeremy Fleming (r) with Prince Charles at GCHQ in July 2019. (Credit: Robert Weideman/European Pressphoto Agency)

“Newly surfaced text messages between Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and his counterpart at MI-5, the UK’s domestic security service, have cast new light on Britain’s role in the FBI’s 2016 ‘Russiagate’ investigation, according to The Guardian.

Two of the most senior intelligence officials in the US and UK privately shared concerns about “our strange situation” as the FBI launched its 2016 investigation into whether Donald Trump’s campaign was colluding with Russia, The Guardian has learned.

Text messages between Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the FBI at the time, and Jeremy Fleming, his then counterpart at MI5, now the head of GCHQ, also reveal their mutual surprise at the result of the EU referendum, which some US officials regarded as a “wake-up call”, according to a person familiar with the matter. –The Guardian

McCabe and Fleming’s texts were “infrequent and cryptic,” but “occurred with some regularity” after the June 2016 Brexit referendum.

In his text message about the August 2016 meeting, Fleming appeared to be making a reference to Peter Strzok, a senior FBI official who travelled to London that month to meet the Australian diplomat Alexander Downer. Downer had agreed to speak with the FBI about a Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, who had told him that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee in the race. –The Guardian

In 2017The Guardian reported that Britain’s spy agencies had played a key role in alerting their American counterparts of communications between members of the Trump campaign and “suspected Russian agents,” which was passed along to the US in what was characterized as a “routine exchange of information.” (Read more: Zero Hedge, 7/30/2019)

April 18, 2019 – Mueller’s own report undercuts its core Russia-meddling claims

(Credit: Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

“While the 448-page Mueller report found no conspiracy between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, it offered voluminous details to support the sweeping conclusion that the Kremlin worked to secure Trump’s victory. The report claims that the interference operation occurred “principally” on two fronts: Russian military intelligence officers hacked and leaked embarrassing Democratic Party documents, and a government-linked troll farm orchestrated a sophisticated and far-reaching social media campaign that denigrated Hillary Clinton and promoted Trump.

But a close examination of the report shows that none of those headline assertions are supported by the report’s evidence or other publicly available sources. They are further undercut by investigative shortcomings and the conflicts of interest of key players involved:

  • The report uses qualified and vague language to describe key events, indicating that Mueller and his investigators do not actually know for certain whether Russian intelligence officers stole Democratic Party emails, or how those emails were transferred to WikiLeaks.
  • The report’s timeline of events appears to defy logic. According to its narrative, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced the publication of Democratic Party emails not only before he received the documents but before he even communicated with the source that provided them.
  • There is strong reason to doubt Mueller’s suggestion that an alleged Russian cutout called Guccifer 2.0 supplied the stolen emails to Assange.
  • Mueller’s decision not to interview Assange – a central figure who claims Russia was not behind the hack – suggests an unwillingness to explore avenues of evidence on fundamental questions.
  • U.S. intelligence officials cannot make definitive conclusions about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee computer servers because they did not analyze those servers themselves. Instead, they relied on the forensics of CrowdStrike, a private contractor for the DNC that was not a neutral party, much as “Russian dossier” compiler Christopher Steele, also a DNC contractor, was not a neutral party. This puts two Democrat-hired contractors squarely behind underlying allegations in the affair – a key circumstance that Mueller ignores.
  • Further, the government allowed CrowdStrike and the Democratic Party’s legal counsel to submit redacted records, meaning CrowdStrike and not the government decided what could be revealed or not regarding evidence of hacking.
  • Mueller’s report conspicuously does not allege that the Russian government carried out the social media campaign. Instead it blames, as Mueller said in his closing remarks, “a private Russian entity” known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA).
  • Mueller also falls far short of proving that the Russian social campaign was sophisticated, or even more than minimally related to the 2016 election. As with the collusion and Russian hacking allegations, Democratic officials had a central and overlooked hand in generating the alarm about Russian social media activity.
  • John Brennan, then director of the CIA, played a seminal and overlooked role in all facets of what became Mueller’s investigation: the suspicions that triggered the initial collusion probe; the allegations of Russian interference; and the intelligence assessment that purported to validate the interference allegations that Brennan himself helped generate. Yet Brennan has since revealed himself to be, like CrowdStrike and Steele, hardly a neutral party — in fact a partisan with a deep animus toward Trump.

Uncertainty Over Who Stole the Emails

The Mueller report’s narrative of Russian hacking and leaking was initially laid out in a July 2018 indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers and is detailed further in the report.  According to Mueller, operatives at Russia’s main intelligence agency, the GRU, broke into Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails in March 2016. The hackers infiltrated Podesta’s account with a common tactic called spear-phishing, duping him with a phony security alert that led him to enter his password. The GRU then used stolen Democratic Party credentials to hack into the DNC and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) servers beginning in April 2016. Beginning in June 2016, the report claims, the GRU created two online personas, “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0,” to begin releasing the stolen material. After making contact later that month, Guccifer 2.0 apparently transferred the DNC emails to the whistleblowing, anti-secrecy publisher WikiLeaks, which released the first batch on July 22 ahead of the Democratic National Convention.

The report presents this narrative with remarkable specificity: It describes in detail how GRU officers installed malware, leased U.S.-based computers, and used cryptocurrencies to carry out their hacking operation. The intelligence that caught the GRU hackers is portrayed as so invasive and precise that it even captured the keystrokes of individual Russian officers, including their use of search engines.

In fact, the report contains crucial gaps in the evidence that might support that authoritative account. Here is how it describes the core crime under investigation, the alleged GRU theft of DNC emails:

Between approximately May 25, 2016 and June 1, 2016, GRU officers accessed the DNC’s mail server from a GRU-controlled computer leased inside the United States. During these connections, Unit 26165 officers appear to have stolen thousands of emails and attachments, which were later released by WikiLeaks in July 2016. [Italics added for emphasis.]

Mueller Report, March 2019, p. 41.

The report’s use of that one word, “appear,” undercuts its suggestions that Mueller possesses convincing evidence that GRU officers stole “thousands of emails and attachments” from DNC servers. It is a departure from the language used in his July 2018 indictment, which contained no such qualifier:

Netyksho/GRU Indictment, July 2018, p. 11.

“It’s certainly curious as to why this discrepancy exists between the language of Mueller’s indictment and the extra wiggle room inserted into his report a year later,” says former FBI Special Agent Coleen Rowley. “It may be an example of this and other existing gaps that are inherent with the use of circumstantial information.  With Mueller’s exercise of quite unprecedented (but politically expedient) extraterritorial jurisdiction to indict foreign intelligence operatives who were never expected to contest his conclusory assertions in court, he didn’t have to worry about precision. I would guess, however, that even though NSA may be able to track some hacking operations, it would be inherently difficult, if not impossible, to connect specific individuals to the computer transfer operations in question.”

The report also concedes that Mueller’s team did not determine another critical component of the crime it alleges: how the stolen Democratic material was transferred to WikiLeaks. The July 2018 indictment of GRU officers suggested – without stating outright – that WikiLeaks published the Democratic Party emails after receiving them from Guccifer 2.0 in a file named “wk dnc linkI .txt.gpg” on or around July 14, 2016. But now the report acknowledges that Mueller has not actually established how WikiLeaks acquired the stolen information: “The Office cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Mueller Report, p. 47.

Another partially redacted passage also suggests that Mueller cannot trace exactly how WikiLeaks received the stolen emails. Given how the sentence is formulated, the redacted portion could reflect Mueller’s uncertainty:

Mueller Report, p. 45.

Contrary to Mueller’s sweeping conclusions, the report itself is, at best, suggesting that the GRU, via its purported cutout Guccifer 2.0, may have transferred the stolen emails to WikiLeaks. ”

Aaron Mate’ addresses each of the bullet points above in much greater detail at: (RealClearInvestigations, 7/05/2019)