September 2019

September 27, 2019 – The Trump-Zelensky transcript contradicts the whistleblower complaint in three notable instances

“The Trump-Zelensky transcript contradicts the whistleblower complaint in three notable instances, raising questions about the credibility of the whistleblower and his or her purported White House sources.

First, WB claims that his sources told him that after “an initial exchange of pleasantries” Trump “used the remainder of the call to advance his personal interests.” The transcript shows that the leaders discussed meetings in Poland and DC before ending the call.

 

Second, WB claims that aside from the cases “purportedly dealing with the Biden family and the 2016 US election … no other ‘cases’ were discussed.” But the transcript shows that Trump and Zelensky talked of a potential probe of Marie Yovanovitch. (misspelled as Ivanovich)

Zelensky: “if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country” in regards to Yovanovitch.

In the transcript, Yovanovitch’s name is misspelled “Ivanovich” and Zelensky appears to have misstated her title as “Ambassador to the United States from Ukraine.”

WB claims the loading of the call transcript onto a secure system amounted to an abuse of that system since the “the call did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective.” The transcript was labeled (properly) “SECRET/ORCON/NOFORN.”

The “SECRET/ORCON/NOFORN.” label was appropriate since the call contained Trump’s views on foreign nations, including Germany, a key U.S. ally. Unauthorized disclosure of such information has the potential to harm national security.

Pelosi kicked off impeachment before the White House released the transcript of the call and before the complaint was made public. As a result, she may not have been aware that the complaint is based on hearsay, some of which has now been contradicted by the call transcript.” (Ivan Pentchoukov @IvanPentchoukov/Twitter, 9/27/2019)

September 27, 2019 – State Department official Kurt Volker at center of whistleblower complaint, resigns

Kurt Volker (Credit: Reuters)

“Kurt Volker, the U.S. special representative to Ukraine, resigned Friday amid fallout from a whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump regarding a phone call in July with Ukraine’s president.

Volker was one of five State Department officials that House Democrats said Friday they want to depose as part of an impeachment inquiry of Trump. The whistleblower complaint focuses on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian leader.

Beginning earlier this year, Volker served as a liaison between officials in the incoming Zelensky administration and Rudy Giuliani, the Trump lawyer who pushed the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

(…) Volker helped Giuliani set up meetings with Zelensky aides. But the whistleblower complaint also says that Volker and Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, met with Giuliani in an effort to “contain the damage” to national security.

Volker and Sondland also met with Ukrainian officials to help them understand the “different messages” they were receiving from Giuliani and official diplomatic channels.

Volker, who served as ambassador to NATO under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, joined the Trump State Department in 2017. He was also executive director at the McCain Institute, founded by late Arizona Sen. John McCain.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 9/27/2019)

Here is the first section from the complaint that mentions Sondland:

And here is the second:

 

September 21, 2019 – Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko denies suggestions Trump had put pressure on Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a July call

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko (Credit: Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

“In an interview with media outlet Hromadske, Prystaiko said Ukraine was an independent state and would not take sides in U.S. politics even if “in theory” the country was in a position to do so. He added that Kiev appreciated the assistance it received from Washington.

Zelenskiy’s office has so far declined to comment on the allegations.

“I know what the conversation was about and I think there was no pressure,” Prystaiko said. “This conversation was long, friendly, and it touched on many questions, sometimes requiring serious answers.”

Trump dismissed the Sept. 12 complaint from the whistleblower within the intelligence community as a partisan hit against him.

Trump had spoken Zelenskiy less than three weeks before the complaint was filed. Trump is due to meet Zelenskiy during a United Nations gathering in New York.

Prystaiko said Zelenskiy had the right to keep conversations with other leaders confidential.

“I want to say that we are an independent state, we have our secrets,” he was quoted as saying in the interview.” (Read more: Reuters, 9/21/2019)

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 17, 2019 – Trump directs ODNI, DoJ and FBI to immediately declassify materials

The White House Press Secretary released the following statement on September 17, 2019:

At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr.

(whitehouse.gov/briefing, 9/17/2019)

September 14, 2019 – Senator Graham says U.S. officials received as many as six warnings about Christopher Steele’s reliability as a source

The London offices of Orbis Business Intelligence. (Credit: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters)

“Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said Friday that U.S. officials received as many as six warnings that dossier author Christopher Steele was an unreliable source of information regarding President Donald Trump.

Graham discussed the assessment of Steele during a radio interview with host Sean Hannity, but he stopped short of describing all of the information regarding the former British spy because much of it is classified.

“There’s four events that I’m aware of, five actually, where the system was informed that Christopher Steele was an unreliable informant when it came to Trump,” Graham told Hannity.

“Some of them I can’t tell you yet until we get this stuff declassified. But I think it’s going to be five; it may be six,” the South Carolina Republican added later.” (Daily Caller, 9/14/2019)

September 14, 2019 – Opinion: Scott Ritter probes Russian informant, Oleg Smolenkov’s role as a CIA asset and the use of his data by Brennan

Reports that the CIA conducted an emergency exfiltration of a long-time human intelligence source who was highly placed within the Russian Presidential Administration sent shock waves throughout Washington, D.C. The source was said to be responsible for the reporting used by the former director of the CIA, John Brennan, in making the case that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered Russian intelligence services to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election for the purpose of tipping the scales in favor of then-candidate Donald Trump. According to CNN’s Jim Sciutto, the decision to exfiltrate the source was driven in part by concerns within the CIA over President Trump’s cavalier approach toward handling classified information, including his willingness to share highly classified intelligence with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a controversial visit to the White House in May 2017.

On closer scrutiny, however, this aspect of the story falls apart, as does just about everything CNN, The New York Times and other mainstream media outlets have reported. There was a Russian spy whose information was used to push a narrative of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election; this much appears to be true. Everything else that has been reported is either a mischaracterization of fact or an outright fabrication designed to hide one of the greatest intelligence failures in U.S. history — the use by a CIA director of intelligence data specifically manipulated to interfere in the election of an American president.

The consequences of this interference has deleteriously impacted U.S. democratic institutions in ways the American people remain ignorant of — in large part because of the complicity of the U.S. media when it comes to reporting this story.

Oleg Smolenkov (Credit: public domain)

This article attempts to set the record straight by connecting the dots presented by available information and creating a narrative shaped by a combination of derivative analysis and informed speculation. At best, this article brings the reader closer to the truth about Oleg Smolenkov’s role as a CIA asset; at worst, it raises issues and questions that will help in determining the truth.

(…) Every Russian diplomat assigned to the United States is screened to ascertain his or her susceptibility for recruitment. The FBI does this from a counterintelligence perspective, looking for Russian spies. The CIA does the same, but with the objective of recruiting a Russian source who can remain in the employ of the Russian government, and thereby provide the CIA with intelligence information commensurate to their standing and access. Turning a senior Russian diplomat is difficult; recruiting a junior Russian diplomat like Oleg Smolenkov less so. Someone like Smolenkov would be viewed not so much by the limited access he provided at the time of recruitment, but rather his potential for promotion and the increased opportunity for more essential access provided by such.

The responsibility within the CIA for recruiting Russian diplomats living in the United States falls to the National Resources Division, or NR, part of the Directorate of Operations, or DO — the clandestine arm of the CIA. In a perfect world, the CIA domestic station in Washington, D.C., would coordinate with the local FBI field office and develop a joint approach for recruiting a Russian diplomat such as Smolenkov. The reality is, however, that the CIA and the FBI have different goals and objectives when it comes to the Russians they recruit. As such, Smolenkov’s recruitment was most likely a CIA-only affair, run by NR but closely monitored by the Russian Operations Group of the Agency’s Central Eurasia Division, who would have responsibility for managing Smolenkov upon his return to Moscow.

The precise motive for Smolenkov to take up the CIA’s offer of recruitment remains unknown. He graduated from one of the premier universities in Russia, the Maurice Thorez Moscow State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages, and he married his English language instructor. Normally a graduate from an elite university such as Maurice Thorez has his or her pick of jobs in the Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Defense or the security services. Smolenkov was hired by the Foreign Ministry as a junior linguist, assigned to the Second European Department, which focuses on Great Britain, Scandinavia and the Baltics, before getting assigned to the embassy in Washington.”  (Read more: Consortium News, 9/14/2019)

September 12, 2019 – Grassley and Johnson ask State OIG why he failed to issue report on his investigation into the meeting between Steele and State Dept officials, before the Carter Page FISA application

“U.S. Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to U.S. Department of State Inspector General Steve Linick today seeking an explanation as to why his office did not issue a report on its investigation into the October 2016 meeting between Christopher Steele and Orbis Intelligence employee Tatyana Duran, then-Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathleen Kavalec, and then-Special Envoy Jonathan Winer. The senators also seek to understand why the state department OIG did not interview all parties present at that October 2016 meeting.

“We write seeking to understand why the OIG did not issue a report on its investigation and did not interview employees who most likely have relevant information regarding the subject matter of the inquiry,” the senators wrote.

The senators asked the state department OIG about its failure to interview Mr. Winer in light of him introducing Mr. Steele to high-ranking state department officials with direct access to their counterparts at the FBI days before the FBI sought a FISA order to surveil a Trump campaign official.

The senators also learned the state department OIG discovered at least one department official, Mr. Winer, utilized non-official email accounts to conduct official department business, and they have requested an explanation as to why the OIG did not interview Mr. Winer about his use of personal email when he directed others to upload those emails to classified systems within the department.  In addition, the senators learned that the state department OIG determined a department employee may have engaged in anti-Trump political conduct, in violation of the Hatch Act, and the OIG referred that individual to the Office of Special Counsel for Investigation. That Hatch Act investigation is ongoing.

The Office of Special Counsel is the permanent, independent investigative agency for personnel matters in the federal government and is not related to Robert Mueller’s temporary prosecutorial office within the justice department.

The full text of the letter can be viewed here.

Sens. Johnson and Grassley’s May 9, 2019, letters to the state department and the FBI can be viewed here.

(GrassleySenate.gov, 9/12/2019)

September 12, 2019 – US attorney recommends proceeding with charges against McCabe; DOJ rejects last-ditch appeal

Andrew McCabe (Credit: Lancaster Dems)

“U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu has recommended moving forward with charges against Andrew McCabe, Fox News has learned, as the Justice Department rejects a last-ditch appeal from the former top FBI official.

McCabe — the former deputy and acting director of the FBI — appealed the decision of the U.S. attorney for Washington all the way up to Jeffrey Rosen, the deputy attorney general, but he rejected that request, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The potential charges relate to DOJ inspector general findings against him regarding misleading statements concerning a Hillary Clinton-related investigation.

A source close to McCabe’s legal team said they received an email from the Department of Justice which said, “The Department rejected your appeal of the United States Attorney’s Office’s decision in this matter. Any further inquiries should be directed to the United States Attorney’s Office.” (Read more: Fox News, 9/12/2019)

September 12, 2019 – State Dept official Jonathan Winer used a personal email account to hide his communications with Fusion GPS and Glenn Simpson

Senators Ron Johnson and Charles Grassley have a few questions that are put in a letter dated September 12, 2019, to State Department OIG Steve Linick who reviewed a meeting between State Dept officials and Christopher Steele. The review or lack thereof appears to have left them with more questions than answers. Here is a clipping of the relevant part of their letter:

(Grassley/Johnson/Linick Letter, 9/12/2019)