The Memo shows the FBI and DOJ lying to spy on an opposition presidential candidate and it undermines the entire rationale for the Mueller investigation.
The House Intel Memo (the “memo”) is out. It contains some bombshells:
One, several of the top people at the FBI and the DOJ, using both lies of omission and commission, falsified applications for FISA warrants to use on Carter Page, a member of Trump’s campaign team. As a general matter, falsifying a warrant does not lead to criminal liability for government officers, but the situation is rightly different when it comes to getting a warrant for NSA intercepts. The NSA’s capabilities and intercept database are mind-bogglingly extensive and they sweep up uncountable conversations involving innocent Americans. If actors in our government, rely on the cloak of secrecy that cover FISA court actions, ever decided to misuse the NSA’s capabilities to target political enemies, they could turn our nation overnight from a democratic republic into something akin to a police state. Congress therefore established criminal penalties for misusing NSA capabilities (50 U.S.C. § 1809) and created a special FISA Court to protect against such misuse. The people responsible for signing those FISA warrants are James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Sally Yates, Dana Boente and Rod Rosenstein. That last name adds some complications, obviously.
Two, a person can infer from the memo that those warrants did not result in any useful information. Otherwise Mueller & Co. would long since have brought charges would against Carter Page and / or the NSA warrants would be ongoing.
Three, the fact that the Steele Dossier, rather than independently developed or corroborated facts, was the basis for a finding of probable cause to get a FISA warrant calls throws into stark relief the question of whether Rod Rosenstein acted lawfully when he appointed Robert Mueller to conduct an intelligence, not a criminal investigation. On that same basis, if there’s no reason to believe that the FBI independently corroborated facts sufficient to make a probable cause finding about some anomalous Trump/Russian conclusion “crime,” then how can there possibly be an investigation into an obstruction of justice charge?
Four, before going into detail on the memo, John Hinderaker at Powerline raises an excellent point about what’s missing from the memo:
Also, we don’t know what was done with the information that was collected about Carter Page – and, of course, about anyone with whom he communicated. This is where the enormous number of “unmasking” requests by Obama officials like Susan Rice come in. Did the Obama administration use the ill-gotten FISA warrants to spy, not only on Carter Page, but on others who had some relationship with Trump, or even Trump himself? Did the Obama administration pass information obtained from improper surveillance on to the Clinton campaign, or leak it to the press after the election?
The memo’s central point is that various people in the FBI and DOJ leadership knowingly applied for and received four FISA warrants under false pretenses. The warrants’ purpose was to have the NSA collect intercepts on Carter Page. Apparently, the last of those warrants would have ended in October of 2017. None have since been renewed.
The only justification for the warrants appears to have been the Steele Dossier. The FBI claimed in the first warrant that the Steele dossier allegations could be validated by referring to a news article that Michael Isikoff, head of Yahoo News, wrote. It turns out, though, that Isikoff only wrote that article after Steele briefed him. All that Isikoff did was repeat Steele’s allegations.
You don’t need to be the sharpest knife in the block to know this. The truth of the matter is plain on its face when one compares the Isikoff article to the June 20, 2016 Steele Dossier. Even an FBI Director could have figured that one out. That is beyond outrageous. That is not a lie of omission, it is a lie of commission before the FISA Court — and one that James Comey signed.
Further, FBI and DOJ officials knew, but did not include in the request for the warrant, that the Steele Dossier on which they relied was opposition research for which the DNC paid. Nor did the FBI and DOJ officials include in the warrant that Steele had stated that he was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being President.” Both of those facts would have been directly relevant for the FISA Court to consider in deciding whether the warrant met the bar of reliability for probable cause to believe Carter Page might be a Foreign Agent.
Hang them. Hang them high.
Another point made in the House Memo, it seems to me, is the most critical. A separate FBI unit had attempted to validate the information in the Steele Dossier. The unit declared it “minimally validated.” As I read that, it means that there were some innocuous facts that could be validated; e.g., that Carter Page in fact took a trip to Russia and while there, spoke at the Higher Economics School. Beyond that, the FBI was unable to verify the claim that Page met with two Russians as Steele alleges in his Dossier, let alone what was the substance of the conversations during those alleged meetings.
I include a detail of the allegations in the Steele Dossier at the bottom of this post. If the allegations in the Steele Dossier do not give rise to probable cause to get a warrant to spy on Carter Page, than those same allegations, by inference, likely do not support a criminal investigation for obstruction of justice.
Let’s take a look at the Steele Dossier now, in light of the memo. When you boil it all down, the Dossier consists of a bald allegation that Trump is a Russian intelligence asset. There is no specific factual information identifying the intelligence allegedly exchanged. Under normal circumstance, that would not be probable cause even to walk into the front door of a court of law.
As to evidence that Trump was an agent of Russia, the Dossier contains the following factual allegations, all of which have either been disproven or are unproven after more than a year of investigation.
- Steele claims that a person close to Trump, later shown to be Sergei Millian, Steele’s “Source D,” claimed to know that Trump had been a Russian asset, sharing intelligence with the Russian government over a period of years. Millian has denied this, nor do any of the known facts support that he had anything other than, at the very most, a brief, passing business relationship with Trump in 2007.
- Steele asserts that Millian claimed that he was present in Moscow in 2013 and witnessed that Trump had 5 prostitutes perform a golden shower. Millian has denied that. Further, Trump’s ex-bodyguard, who led his security detachment in Russia for the 2013 visit, has stated that he had a detail stationed outside of Trump’s door and that no unauthorized person, let alone 5 prostitutes, entered or exited the room.
- Steele claims generally that Paul Manafort was coordinating with Russia on Trump’s behalf but there is no supporting evidence. The Mueller indictment against Manafort is for actions taken before 2014 as regards his lobbying for the interests of then Ukrainian President Yanukovich. None of that deals with Trump-Russia collusion.
- Steele asserts that Carter Page went to Moscow and, while there, had “secret meetings” with two Russians. Page has denied the meetings and it appears the FBI was unable to confirm them. Steele also makes the facially unbelievable allegation that page entered into a quid pro quo with the Russians under which they would personally give him a business opportunity worth billions of dollars if only Page would see that sanctions were lifted.
- Steele asserts that Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, met with the Russians in Prague. Not only does Cohen deny this, but he states that he can prove his whereabouts the entire time — and they were nowhere near Prague.
- Steele contends that, in return for Russia’s help, Trump promised to raise concerns over NATO. Trump did raise concerns over NATO on the campaign trail — but mainstream Republicans have routinely expressed concerns over NATO for years. Claiming NATO as evidence proves nothing. It is like saying X event happened on a particular day because the sun rose in the sky.
- Steele claims that, in return for Russia’s help, Trump promised to end sanctions relating to the Ukraine. Trump never raised doing so on the campaign trail nor did he discuss opposition to the Magintsky Act from which Russia sought relief.
- And then there’s Wikileaks. Steele claims that Russia acted independently to harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign for Trump’s benefit, but that alone is not evidence that Trump colluded with Russia to do so. Steele’s evidence of this alleged collusion is that someone on Team Trump confirmed that he “knew” that Russia was behind the Wikileaks leaks.
Item No. 8 is the one claim with superficial validity, at least until one looks a bit closely.
George Papadopoulos, a member of a Trump foreign policy advisory board, got drunk and started chatting up an Aussie diplomat in the UK one night. He told her that Russians had thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails or that he got that information from some academic with Russian ties. The problem is that even the FBI probably believes that the Russians have Hillary’s emails — not because of any collusion, but because Hillary Clinton using an unsecured private server to conduct all her business while Secretary of State from 2009-2012.
Importantly, the Wikileaks emails were not “thousands” of Clinton emails. They were DNC emails and John Podesta emails. Indeed, in charging Papadopoulos with perjuring himself before the FBI, Mueller makes no claim that Papadopoulos was referring to the Wikileaks emails.
I have some great concerns after reading the House Memo. As I stated above, if there is not and was not evidence to believe that anybody in Trump’s campaign, including Trump himself, had committed a crime amounting to collusion with Russia, then what is Mueller doing investigating obstruction of justice charges relating to anything beyond the incident involving Michael Flynn? To further complicate things, Rod Rosenstein did not comply with applicable law when he appointed Mueller.
As Andrew McCarthy has pointed out, the regulations governing special counsel appointments are limited to an appointment to investigate “criminal” matters. The special counsel is not supposed to conduct a counterintelligence investigation. Rosenstein muddled his Mueller appointment so that we now seem to have Mueller setting a perjury trap for the non-crime of obstruction of foreign intelligence. I do not see how the Mueller investigation can survive the memo.
Why would Rosenstein give such a broad charter to Mueller anyway, when the sole incident at issue was Trump’s firing of Comey? The only rational explanation I can see is that Rosenstein, either to protect himself or others, or with a hail Mary to try and get rid of Trump, gave Mueller such a broad charter in the hope that he would authenticate the Steele Dossier where the FBI had failed. It was a giant fishing expedition, and given that no one but Rosenstein would be looking over Mueller’s shoulder, it gave Mueller a lot more room to aggressively try and come up with such information. This truly smells to high heaven.
And lastly, if you want to hear James Comey do his best impression of Hillary Clinton saying, “at this point, what difference does it make,” there is his response to the memo today:
That’s it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.
That is a corrupt son of a bitch.
The Steele Dossier in detail
The Steele Dossier is the alpha and, it is seemingly ever more likely, the omega of the Trump Russia collusion narrative. It contains a lot of publicly available information and several factual allegations regarding Trump and several key players related at one time or another to Trump, they being Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen.
20 June 2016 Steele Memo
- Trump has been a Russian intelligence asset since 2011, sharing intelligence with and receiving intelligence from Russia.
- Trump was compromised in 2013 [when he was in Moscow for the Miss Universe Pageant]. He had five Russian prostitutes come to his hotel room to perform a golden shower before him. The FSB has this on tape, supposedly.
- The FSB supposedly has a dossier of compromising material on Clinton as well. Steele says that the dossier “had been collated by Dept. K of the FSB over many years, dating back to her husband Bill’s presidency, and comprised mainly eavesdropped conversations of various sorts rather than details/evidence of unorthodox or embarrassing behavior. Some of the conversations were from bugged comments CLINTON made while on her various trips to Russia and focused on things she had said which contradicted her current position on various issues. Others were most probably from phone intercepts.”
July 2016 Steele Memo (undated except by month, marked in sequence after the next memo dated 19 July)
- Trump associate admits that Kremlin is behind the DNC email leaks to / from Wikileaks
- Putin “hated and feared” Hillary Clinton.
- Trump was transferring and receiving intelligence from the Kremlin via his then campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who in turn was using Carter Page and other intermediaries
- In return for Russian help re Wikileaks, Trump would ignore Russian activities in the Ukraine and raise concerns over NATO.
- Either Russia or Trump, it is unclear, had a mole in the DNC.
- Trump had no business interests in Russia, but instead, he was being paid in Russian prostitutes when he was on Russian soil.
- The “mechanism” Trump and Russia had been using to transmit and receive intelligence “involves pension disbursements to Russian emigres living in the U.S. as cover, using Consular officials in New York, DC and Miami.”
- “Suggestion from source close to TRUMP and MANAFORT that Republican campaign team happy to have Russia as media boogyman to mask more extensive corrupt business ties to China and other emerging countries.”
19 July 2016 Steele Memo
- Carter Page held “secret meetings in Moscow” with Igor Sechin of Rosneft and a Kremlin official, Divyekin.
- Sechin raised future bilateral energy cooperation in return for lifting sanctions related to Ukraine. Page noncommital.
- Divyekin holds out the possibility of giving Page the compromising material it has on Clinton and, as well, intimates that Russia also has similar compromising material on Trump and that Trump should remember that in future dealings.
26 July 2016 Steele Memo
- Russia concentrating on suborning Russian Jews in particular to spy and conduct activities relating to cyber-espionage in Western countries.
30 July 2016 Steele Memo
- Trump exchange of intelligence with Russia has been ongoing for 8 years, not 5. The information Trump has been providing has been as regards the activities of “Russian oligarchs” in the U.S.
- The Kremlin has promised not to release the compromising material it maintains on Trump because of his high levels of voluntary cooperation.
10 Aug. 2016
- The purpose of the DNC e-mail leaks was to convince Sanders voters to switch their vote to Trump, not Clinton.
22 Aug. 2016
- Ex-Urkainian President Yanukovich confides to Putin that he paid untraceable “kickbacks” to Paul Manafort relating to his lobbying for Yanukovich and his commercial activities in the Ukraine, none of which Steele claims touched on Trump or the Trump campaign.
14 Sept. 2016
- Trump traveled to St. Petersburg at some point and was rumored to have taken part in sex parties there with Russian prostitutes.
- Trump paid bribes through a third party to local officials to lay the groundwork for business opportunities, but none got off the ground.
18 Oct. 2016
- Carter Page’s meeting with Sechin took place on 7 or 8 July, after Page traveled to Moscow to speak at the Higher Economic School.
- Sechin offered Carter Page an opportunity to broker up to 19% of Rosneft [worth about $10 bil.] if he could see to sanctions being lifted on Russia. Page replied that Trump would lift the sanctions if elected.
- Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, playing a “key role” in the Trump-Russia collusion.
19 Oct. 2016
- Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, met with Russian officials to cover up Manafort’s ties to the Ukraine and the exposure of Carter Page.
20 Oct. 2016
- Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, traveled to Prague in 2016 to attend a “clandestine meeting” with Kremlin representatives.
13 Dec. 2016
- The Cohen meeting took place between the last week in August and the first week in September.