In Which Former NatSec Prosecutor Andrew McCarthy Embraces Russian Disinformation

Andrew McCarthy is one of the few right wingers I think all Trump opponents need to read. That’s true, partly, because his experience as a top NatSec prosecutor grants him an important perspective from which to assess the Trump investigation. And also, he engages in his own assessment of the evidence, as he has received it, even if he brings a far right bias to it.

McCarthy decides the dossier was key in the Page FISA order

Which is why defenders of the Christopher Steele dossier should read — and prepare to respond to — this column concluding (after some prior good faith consideration) that Democrats do have a problem with the way the dossier was used to justify an investigation against Trump. In it, McCarthy divorces his discussion from the known timeline and concludes that dossier is the true referent to Peter Strzok’s “insurance policy” text.

Was it the Steele dossier that so frightened the FBI? I think so.

[snip]

In sum, the FBI and DOJ were predisposed to believe the allegations in Steele’s dossier. Because of their confidence in Steele, because they were predisposed to believe his scandalous claims about Donald Trump, they made grossly inadequate efforts to verify his claims. Contrary to what I hoped would be the case, I’ve come to believe Steele’s claims were used to obtain FISA surveillance authority for an investigation of Trump.

McCarthy then points to this report (as I have) of Andrew McCabe pointing only to Carter Page’s trip to Moscow as validation of the dossier.

But when pressed to identify what in the salacious document the bureau had actually corroborated, the sources said, McCabe cited only the fact that Trump campaign adviser Carter Page had traveled to Moscow. Beyond that, investigators said, McCabe could not even say that the bureau had verified the dossier’s allegations about the specific meetings Page supposedly held in Moscow.

From that, McCarthy departs from prior points he has made about FBI’s corroboration of intelligence on FISA applications and ignores reports that FBI had a FISA order on Carter Page before the campaign (those reports admittedly might be disinformation, but then so might every single report pertaining to FISA orders) to suggest that the Steele dossier was the primary thing FBI used to get a FISA order on him (and, even more inaccurately, to justify the entire investigation). Here’s where McCarthy ends his piece.

The FBI always has information we do not know about. But given that Page has not been accused of a crime, and that the DOJ and FBI would have to have alleged some potential criminal activity to justify a FISA warrant targeting the former U.S. naval intelligence officer, it certainly seems likely that the Steele dossier was the source of this allegation. In conclusion, while there is a dearth of evidence to date that the Trump campaign colluded in Russia’s cyberespionage attack on the 2016 election, there is abundant evidence that the Obama administration colluded with the Clinton campaign to use the Steele dossier as a vehicle for court-authorized monitoring of the Trump campaign — and to fuel a pre-election media narrative that U.S. intelligence agencies believed Trump was scheming with Russia to lift sanctions if he were elected president.

McCarthy may well have a point. That is, I think his argument that DOJ’s predisposition to believe Steele may have led them to treat the dossier more credibly than it warranted. But as I said, to conclude the dossier is the main thing, he has to ignore reporting that Page had already had a FISA order (meaning FBI had already established, to the standard that FISC measures it, that Page might be involved in clandestine activity). He also doesn’t mention Chuck Grassley’s concerns about parallel construction, which he’d only have if he knew that FBI had corroborated the dossier intelligence (as McCarthy had been confident would have happened before this column). Nor does he mention that Page’s visit to Moscow was reported contemporaneously, in both Russian and DC. Further, as I lay out in this post, treating the dossier as definitive on August 15 doesn’t get you very far. Nor does McCarthy acknowledge that the public record makes clear that other pieces of intelligence also established a basis to open an investigation, regardless of what role the dossier contributed.

Still, as far as it goes, McCarthy’s argument thus far should at least be engaged by Trump opponents, because as far as it goes, it is a legitimate complaint.

FBI in no way let the dossier affect its election tampering, which ultimately worked to hurt Hillary

The first area where McCarthy goes off the rails, however, is in his suggestion that DOJ’s credulity about the dossier led the FBI to oppose Trump’s election, rather than fast-track an investigation into his ties with Russia.

He does this, first of all, by speculating — based on zero evidence — that FBI found out early on that the dossier was oppo research.

At some point, though, perhaps early on, the FBI and DOJ learned that the dossier was actually a partisan opposition-research product. By then, they were dug in. No one, after all, would be any the wiser: Hillary would coast to victory, so Democrats would continue running the government; FISA materials are highly classified, so they’d be kept under wraps.

I believe Steele’s public statements (which I admit are suspect) suggest the opposite. That is, I believe he was sufficiently compartmented from whoever was paying for the dossier such that he might not know about it (though that admittedly raises the stakes of what Bruce Ohr knew from his wife Nelly, and to what degree she was upholding client confidentiality).

McCarthy then suggests that FBI’s goal and actions reflect efforts to ensure Trump would not be elected.

[T]he suspicion is that, motivated by partisanship and spurred by shoddy information that it failed to verify, the FBI exploited its counterintelligence powers in hopes of derailing Trump’s presidential run.

[snip]

DOJ and FBI, having dropped a criminal investigation that undeniably established Hillary Clinton’s national-security recklessness, managed simultaneously to convince themselves that Donald Trump was too much of a national-security risk to be president.

Having laid out his argument that FBI gave Hillary a pass on her email investigation (yes, that part of this is laughable), McCarthy completely ignores the events of late October to make this claim.

First, he ignores that Jim Comey publicly reopened the investigation into Hillary less than two weeks before the election in large part because significant swaths of the FBI didn’t want her to win and Comey worried it would otherwise leak. You simply cannot say an FBI that did so was actively working to ensure a Hillary win.

Just as importantly, it appears that after it became publicly clear, with David Corn’s Steele story, that the dossier was oppo research, the FBI not only backed out of a plan to pay for its continuation, but leaked to the NYT that FBI had found nothing to substantiate any ties with Russia.

Note, this detail also provides a much better explanation for why the FBI backed out of its planned relationship with Steele in October, one that matches my supposition. As soon as it became clear Elias was leaking the dossier all over as oppo research, the FBI realized how inappropriate it was to use the information themselves, no matter how credible Steele is. This also likely explains why FBI seeded a story with NYT, one Democrats have complained about incessantly since, reporting “none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.” Ham-handed? Sure. But in the wake of Harry Reid and David Corn’s attempts to force FBI to reveal what Democratic oppo research had handed to FBI, the FBI needed to distance themselves from the oppo research, and make sure they didn’t become part of it. Particularly if Steele was not fully forthcoming about who was paying him, the FBI was fucked.

Whatever the facts about when it discovered the Democrats were funding the dossier, ultimately FBI went way out of its way to ensure the allegations in the dossier didn’t influence the election.

Wherein a former NatSec prosecutor yawns about Russian disinformation

At this point, I’m somewhat agnostic about the best explanation for all the shortcomings of the Steele dossier. It’s possible that, being offered money to support a conclusion, Steele just told his client what they wanted to hear, regardless of the actual reality (though that doesn’t accord with the public record on Steele’s credibility, at all). But it’s also possible that Russia learned about the dossier early on (possibly from Fusion researcher Rinat Akhmetshin), and spent a lot of time feeding Steele’s known sources disinformation. I’m increasingly leaning to the latter explanation, but I still remain agnostic.

Not McCarthy. He comes down squarely on the side of disinformation.

The dossier appears to contain misinformation. Knowing he was a spy-for-hire trusted by Americans, Steele’s Russian-regime sources had reason to believe that misinformation could be passed into the stream of U.S. intelligence and that it would be acted on — and leaked — as if it were true, to America’s detriment. This would sow discord in our political system. If the FBI and DOJ relied on the dossier, it likely means they were played by the Putin regime.

But McCarthy doesn’t think this through. And he doesn’t think it through even while proclaiming, abundant evidence to the the contrary, “there is a dearth of evidence to date that the Trump campaign colluded in Russia’s cyberespionage attack.”

There’s not a dearth of evidence!

To claim that there is, McCarthy ignores that longtime Trump associate Felix Sater was brokering deals with Russian oligarchs that he believed would get Trump elected in 2015. McCarthy ignores the likelihood George Papadopoulos warned the campaign of stolen emails, referred to as “dirt on Hillary,” even before the Democrats knew about any stolen emails. He ignores that Don Jr took a meeting (with Fusion associate Rinat Akhmetshin) based on a promise of dirt. He ignores that the broker behind the meeting, Rob Goldstone, found it eerie that stolen emails were released right after the meeting. McCarthy ignores that the substance of the meeting — sanctions relief — is precisely what Flynn was ordered to broker even before Trump was inaugurated, which Flynn is now explaining in depth in part because Jared Kushner withheld information that might have exonerated Flynn’s actions.

That is, McCarthy ignores that there’s a great deal of evidence, even in the public record, that Trump welcomed the release of stolen Hillary emails in a meeting at which sanctions were discussed, and that Trump promised to give Russia sanctions relief even before he was inaugurated.

Had he considered all this evidence, though, he might have had to think about why none of this shows up in the dossier, not even — especially not — the meeting which a Fusion research associate attended. Had he considered all this evidence, he would have had to think about how much the dossier looks like a distraction from all the evidence of collusion that was literally lying right before Fusion’s face. He also might have to consider how the dossier, paid for in response to the DNC hack, was worse than the public record precisely as it pertained to Russian hack and leaks.

Sure, it’s possible the Russians decided to plant a story of Trump collusion where no evidence existed, and did so well before Hillary’s investment in such a narrative was public (it would be interesting to know whether emails Russia stole in April would support such a narrative). It’s possible that’s what the disinformation of the dossier accomplishes. All that would be inconsistent with what everyone believed at the time, which is that Hillary would win.

That’s possible, sure.

But that’s not what the existing evidence supports. That is, if the dossier is disinformation, then it appears most likely to be disinformation that served as a distraction from the real collusion happening in easily researchable form. That’d be especially likely given that Manafort seems to have encouraged Trump to carry out precisely the counter propaganda that, with this column, McCarthy has now joined.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

44 replies
  1. Steve McIntyre says:

    You say: “McCarthy ignores the likelihood George Papadopoulos warned the campaign of stolen emails, referred to as “dirt on Hillary,” even before the Democrats knew about any stolen emails”

    I think that you and others are mis-construing what Papadopoulos was referring to – which was surely the “33000” emails that Hillary had destroyed.  Did Russia have them after all?  There’s no reason to believe that he or Mifsud were thinking of the DNC hack emails.

    The timeline proves this.  Papa and Mifsud discussed “thousands of emails” on April 26, 2016. Nearly ALL of the DNC hack emails are dated AFTER April 26, 2016 – see here.  Plus there is a convincing analysis that the DNC hacked emails were exfiltrated between May 23 and May 25, 2016 – well AFTER the Mifsud-Papa conversation. This analysis acutely observed that the DNC had a 30-day retention policy, thus the very precise window of email dates.

    The exfiltration of DNC emails took place AFTER Crowdstrike installed their software on May 5, 2016 – an issue that has been totally neglected in analysis.

    The lack of knowledge of details of dates of DNC hacked emails has led to a very fundamental misunderstanding of Papa-Mifsud and distorted other analysis.

     

     

     

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Who wasn’t “predisposed to believe the allegations” about a character like Donald Trump, who has spent decades luxuriating in being over the top and off the wall? It’s the alpha and omega of his business model.

    But yes, armed federal law enforcement agencies have an obligation and the ability to suspend belief, to investigate, to determine whether reasonable suspicion leads to real and provable crimes.

  3. Steve McIntyre says:

    My take is that the CIA was far more aggressive in promoting the dossier and that the FBI was much more cautious and endorsed it very late in the day, perhaps only after Trump was elected.

    The WaPo has an important article on June 23, 2017, which describes CIA Director Brennan as leading hair-on-fire concern about allegations of collusion between Trump and Russia, based on an “intelligence bombshell” which they did not identify, but which appears to me to be early Steele memoranda from the dossier laundered through the GCHQ. If one hypothesizes that the “extraordinary” intelligence of the June 23, 2017 article is the dossier, then the implications are far-reaching – not just to the FISA warrant, but to the intelligence conclusion about supposed knowledge that the DNC emails were delivered to Wikileaks on “Putin’s specific instructions”.

    It’s also not a given that McCabe and Comey were always on the same page. The 15-day delay between discovery of the Abedin emails on Oct 12, 2016 and their coming to Comey’s attention on Oct 27, 2016 deserves explanation.  Did Strzok and/or McCabe sit on news of the Abedin emails hoping to run the clock until after the election? I can picture how this very delay might have panicked Comey when he found out about it, leading him to a much more precipitous announcement on Oct 28, 2016 than he would have liked.

     

    • emptywheel says:

      It’s crystal clear that June hair on fire thing was no dossier related. I know multiple teams of journalists who have IDed which intel agencies were dealing data but no one will go on the record with it bc of the sensitivity of the collection source.

      While I believe Brennan’s obfuscations about the dossier are BS, that early thing was not the dossier.

      • Steve McIntyre says:

        is there anything that you can point to which shows that it’s “crystal clear” that Brennan’s hair-on-fire task force in August was not derived from Steele. Given the longstanding intel community difficulty in getting inside intelligence on Putin’s intentions, it seems an odd coincidence that early Steele memoranda purporting to provide such information and the “intelligence bombshell” described in the WaPo articles should arrive opportunely at virtually the same time.  In making this observation, I’m aware that GCHQ Hannigan is reported to have traveled to Washington at this time and that it is his proximate information that may have lit Brennan’s hair on fire, but do we KNOW that Hannigan’s information wasn’t derivative of or contaminated by Steele?

        I understand that the entire matter is very murky, but it’s very unsatisfying that, in such an era of leaks, the critical information source is supposedly known to multiple journalists, but remains undisclosed.

          • Steve McIntyre says:

            attitudes seem to depend on how much faith one is prepared to place in belief that US intel agencies have convincing classified information permitting attribution – given lack of evidence in unclassified assessments. Easiest way to settle controversy is to declassify information to permit public to have informed opinion. Kennedy did this in U2 crisis and it permitted a healthy discussion.

            Given the absence of concrete evidence, I don’t feel strongly skeptical; I would be easily persuaded by actual evidence. But without such evidence, I don’t think that you are on any sort of high ground to castigate agnosticism on these issues.

            • bmaz says:

              There is evidence aplenty, if you actually understand what that term means in law. Clearly, you do not. What you are demanding is what is colloquially known as “proof”. And that, Steve, is not how this all works.

        • pseudonymous in nc says:

          do we KNOW that Hannigan’s information wasn’t derivative of or contaminated by Steele?

          Why exactly should we assume that the only source in the game was someone working in the private sector and clearly reliant upon HUMINT when the most significant SIGINT alliance in the world includes the US and UK?

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The last quote from McCarthy seems off.  He attributes agency to “Steele’s Russian-regime sources,” who were the ones who believed that, “misinformation could be passed into the stream of U.S. intelligence and that it would be acted on.”  But he concludes that, “it likely means they were played by the Putin regime.”

    McCarthy doesn’t adequately distinguish between actors for the Putin regime and Steele’s sources.  The latter were likely played as much as was Steele, in order to make them more believable to Steele.  Unlike McCarthy, you make that distinction clear.

    McCarthy also ignores Trump’s behavior before and after his election.  The candidate sets the tone and the priorities she wants acted upon; she rewards players who follow those priorities and cuts off at the knees those who don’t.

    Trump made clear that playing nice, taking substantial risks in order to play nice with the Russians was always his top priority.  That was true before and after the election and during his presidency.  That conduct establishes a presidential priority that continues today.

    Trump’s behavior toward Russia is highly unusual for any US president.  It is unheard of for a GOP president.  In combination with other factors, it screams for a thorough investigation, unlike the already disproven claims against the dreaded Hillary.

  5. orionATL says:

    i think about this russian disinformation “campaign” and on the surface it seems like a truly incredible concoction.

    if you assume steele’s sources were generally not well-disposed to putin and his allies, or that they wanted money, it seems unlikely they would have been persuaded to con steele or that he woulx not have been able to detect their change of tone, info, attitude.

    more importantly, how in the world would the putin regime even be able to contact or influence steele’s sources? alternatively, are those who buy the disinfo campaign willing to believe that neither steele’s sources nor steele could tell a disinfo campaign from a government that specislizes in them?

    anybody who has any experience with neighborhood gossip knows how quickly information can divulge from a precise accounting of reality in a few retellings – was it a big brown pit bull that got out or was it that chocolate lab or the little brown mongrel? who car, or was it a pickup, on the middle street was broken into last saturday?
    h
    so michael cohen wasn’t in prague. so carter page never talked with the head of that energy firm, only one of his subordinates, a friend. so what?

    emptywheel has said recently that no one (she may have meant no one publicly) has done an evaluation of the steele dossier’s claims. nonetheless what seems to stand are any counterclaims against it whatever group chooses to make.

    the steele dosdier may be partly or all error, or partly or all fabrication on someone(es) part(s), but i think there is a very powerful bias working against steele that i have seen operate over and over in all levels and types of media:

    the powerful person always gets the benefit of the doubt in assessing the “truth” of a criticism of him. incredible.

    johns hopkins assessment of the uncounted civilian dead in the iraq invasion. cheny/bush overtly false claims of momd. obama claims admin claims about the killing and burial of bin laden as related by hirsh. now the claim that steele makes in his dossier, the patently true general claim that the russian gov’t and/or agents operated to influence the outcome of the american national elections of 2016.

    • orionATL says:

      based on my reading of recent dossier postings here, there is one russia-related entry in the dossier, the december (last?) entry which may be wrong, even disinformation (hmmm, fake news and disinformation and “fake news” as propaganda term, three items for a later day). but this entry may not be altogether part of a russian disinformation claim, but an american one involving, possibly, the russian expert spouse of an fbi official. on this point i am largely ignorant but very curious.

    • orionATL says:

      oh, and while a rightwing prosecutor (those guys know how to hide relevant info if anybody does) turned pundit joins others nattering on about the steele dossier, from imperfections all the way up to to gross disinformation by a hyper-alert, extremely efficient russian gov’t, how about all those nsa/ghcq intercepts of russian officials talking to trump campaign officials back in spring, summer, fall 2016? weren’t these available to fbi/cia as well as nsa/ghcq? if so, would they not have predisposed american counterintelligence with any intelligence at all to be highly suspicious of the trump campaign, all the more given the long, long history of animosity toward russia that earl of huntingdon describes above?

      did the steele dossier occur, suddenly, miraculously in a vacuum of suspicion at the fbi, cia, nsa about a known fraudster, mafioso fellow-traveller, and money laundering facilitator named donald j. trump?

      like i said, incredibly, the powerful always get the benefit of the doubt when the less powerful turn whistleblower. see the matter of harvey weinstein and how the media were manipulated and threatened.

      only here it is a former british counterintelligence guy who does investigations mostly for businesses wanting to do business in the lawless territory of current russia who got taken in, plus a few anti-trump fbi types naturally. really? and all about a dossier whose individual sections have never been seriously checked for inaccuracy or accuracy. what a crock.

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        Ultimately, you’re only as good as a) your sources; b) your judgement on sources; c) the time you have to corroborate your sources. Steele was working according to electoral deadlines, and by October (the Cohen stuff) he was pushing out reports fast as extremely raw HUMINT with feedback loops working against him.

        Again: had Clinton won, this would all be a side-issue of interest to very few people (though I imagine EW would be interested in it nonetheless) and I presume Steele like so many of us thought he would be living in that parallel timeline.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Steele’s concluding paragraph, comparing the so-called dearth of evidence against Trump and the abundance of evidence that Obama “colluded” with Hillary (lazy use of “collusion,” given McCarthy’s background) displays the straightforward wingnut welfare arrangement McCarthy has as a “senior fellow” at the “National Review Institute.”

    His colloquial use of treason (emphasis added) suggests he’s not writing for the lawyers, but for purposes of political persuasion:

    The only known suspicions about Page that have potential criminal implications are the allegations in the dossier, which potentially include hacking, bribery, fraud, and racketeering — if Russia were formally considered an enemy of the United States, they would include treason.

    Treason would apply if we were at war with an enemy.  Russia’s status as a competitor or a state with which we are often in conflict would be insufficient, as would their simply being another country.

    As for Page himself, he lived in and studied Russia, and obtained a PhD from the University of London (under uncommon circumstances, passing his orals on his third try and only after changing examiners, having claimed the first set – who failed him twice – were biased against him because they concluded his work didn’t deserve the degree).

    Page was apparently hired by the Trump campaign because of his Russian contacts, and presumably because his crudely self-aggrandizing personality fit well with Trump’s.  He’s likely to have all sorts of undisclosed contacts with Russia apart from the Steele dossier

    • orionATL says:

      e of h writes:

      “… passing his orals on his third try and only after changing examiners, having claimed the first set – who failed him twice – were biased against him because they concluded his work didn’t deserve the degree…”

      that was just their polite, non-ad hominem reason. the real reason they flunked him twice was because they understood from listening to him that his brain was not wired for normal human speech :) 😁

      i once knew a college dean with that exact same quality of intellect. i knew him because he was also a local politician. the guy was a phenomenal liar, as dean and politician. you could not trust a word he said, but neither could you be sure what that was.

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        There’s something legitimately bizarre about that. UCL won’t disclose who his final pair of examiners were and Page isn’t telling; he didn’t even acknowledge his doctoral supervisor, which is something You Just Do.

        There’s a whiff of the Mifsuds about how Page ended up with that PhD.

  7. SpaceLifeForm says:

    IC power rankings:

    FBI
    Coast Guard
    Office of Naval Intelligence
    NSA

    [11 redacted]

    ODNI
    CIA

    [The last two are tied for last in the rankings]

    [I’d even put KL above ODNI and CIA, but these are just US orgs only]

  8. Samoval says:

    So Trump’s giving the go-ahead to sell anti-tank missiles to the Ukrainians, the better to fight Putin’s boys. Doesn’t sound like something a “Russian asset” would do huh? Oh my, however will this site spin this one?

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/sources-trump-expected-announce-approval-plan-sell-anti/story?id=51957745

    Also would you care to address this statement: “Having laid out his argument that FBI gave Hillary a pass on her email investigation (yes, that part of this is laughable)” What exactly makes this argument so “laughable”? The Strzok emails that show how much certain FBI types were rooting for her to beat that awful Trump? The fact that Strzok was key in getting the Hillary doc language changed from “negligent” to the non-enforceable “careless”? The fact that Hillary’s people were granted such extraordinary concessions as being able to be interviewed two at a time, or being allowed to haul away boxes of personal documents for “privacy” reasons? Or maybe that the FBI never pressed charges for the inconsistencies in Huma’s and Cheryl’s testimony like they did with Flynn’s? Just curious.

     

    • bmaz says:

      Oh my! Do tell about your logic. Oh, and by the way, you will need to do that before questioning anybody here.

      If you decide to come back and play, let us know.

  9. Sponson says:

    The idea that the Russians collected the “missing” e-mails is ridiculous because the task would have been virtually impossible. It was definitely improper to run her own server for reasons of record-keeping; but most of the ones deleted were completely non-classified or non-State Dept related, which is just why they got deleted. Ironically if classified ones were deleted in order to cover up bad practice (the only plausible “bombshell” they might have produced), Trump was demanding Russia release them all which would have been airing classified material instead of leaving it deleted. There was never anything “there” in the e-mails deleted except for more of what we did see.

  10. Watson says:

    Trump’s right-wing champions are claiming that FBI/DOJ got authorization for its FISA surveillance by improperly relying on assertions in the Steele dossier.

    It’s ironic that they’re invoking a version of the ‘fruit of the poisonous tree’ doctrine to defend Trump. The doctrine attempts to curtail police violation of suspects’ constitutional rights, particularly coerced confessions and unjustified searches. If the source of the evidence is tainted, the doctrine holds, then anything gained from it is also tainted, and should be excluded from evidence.

    Conservatives have always railed against the exclusionary rule, saying that ‘it is ridiculous for a criminal to go free because the constable blundered’. It’s extremely hypocritical for reactionaries to invoke this rule in defense of their fascist hero Trump.

    • orionATL says:

      a new legal perspective.

      tx.

      for rightwingers defending their privateering ship of state, it’s dump the cargo!

      any old legal port in a storm.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Narcissist billionaire Donald Trump celebrates Christmas by berating a government civil servant for hanging on to his job for a few more months in order to qualify for a well-earned pension.

    It’s called taking care of his family, something Donald Trump does only after losing a vindictive law suit.  It’s called being smart – something Donald has to remind the world (meaning himself) on a daily basis that he is, too.  Smart enough to collect deferred compensation it took 30 years to earn, part of a contractual commitment most employers wish their employees would forget about.

    Smart enough to collect on what most employers are taking away from their employees so that the suits can take home bigger paychecks, making relatively low paying government jobs seem fantastic when compared with what “the market” is serving up.

    Peripatetic trailer-living warehouse workers stuffing Amazon’s packages and Jeff Bezos’s wallet wish they had it so good, especially when the ibuprofen and acetaminophen no longer ease the aches and pains that come with being “retired” while working a ten or twelve hour day.

    Donald Trump, born a millionaire, who has screwed every partner, customer, supplier, worker and creditor he’s ever worked with (barring, possibly, the Russians), thinks it’s grasping and greedy for a government employee to hang on to his job long enough to collect a pension.

    Bah, humbug: it wasn’t invented by Charles Dickens, it didn’t die when he invented the fantasy of a boss scared by dreams brought on by a bit of underdone potato into believing in the healing, communal power of Christmas.  Pity for Donald he’ll never know what that’s about.  To everyone who does, Merry Christmas.

  12. Willis warren says:

    You’re being too fair. McCarthy is being a douchebag.  Also, the dossier was obviously a lot of misinformation. It would be interesting to know when akhmetshin knew about the oppo researvh. I doubt Steele didn’t have much of this done before being hired

  13. Raj says:

    Fair article, but I have a nitpick on Steele’s credibility. He is a failed spy. His cover was blown and he was evacuated from Russia for the fake rock fiasco.

  14. Fool says:

    “…the dossier, paid for in response to the DNC hack.”

    What a facile ad hoc justification for why they hired Fusion — and for which, once again, what counts for “evidence” is merely speculation affirmed by near-unanimous (if manufactured) consent.

    The logic of this piece (and much of the russia coverage here in general): “There’s no evidence that Trump and Russia DIDN’T collude, which means they likely did collude. Everyone agree? Ok, they obviously did collude.”

    This is like Luke Harding but for a slightly more sophisticated audience.

  15. zonefreezone says:

    EW I believe there are two significant errors in this posting.

    First, the indented passages are from the National Review article you discuss, I think, but your 6th citation is not from the NR article. I think this discussion indented here is your work. (“..FBI was fucked” was a clear give-away)

    Also you make reference to “Steele’s public comments” about half-way through the article, just above the “FBI was fucked” section.

    Well that got my attention. I find no Steele public statements, with this exception:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/donald-trump-russia-dossier-christopher-steele-ex-spy-british-a7616326.html

    I’m not even sure from the context whose public statements you’re referring to. McCabe?

    • emptywheel says:

      I linked to the source for my own statements, in the word, “appears.”

      And Steele has made public statements in court filings. I’ve covered them here before.

  16. zonefreezone says:

    2 Corrections from me : “Steele’s public statements” is farther on in your post than the “FBI was fucked” remark. And yes it’s “statements” not “comments”

  17. Kim Kaufman says:

    At this point, I think I am confused with references to the “FBI.” It seems there are two FBIs – the one in NY, close to Giuliani, Trump, et al, and the rest of it.

    Also, it seems to me, the long game is, in addition to the obvious discrediting of whatever Mueller is doing, a Trump private army whatever it is that Erik Prince has pitched.

    Just some cheery Christmas Eve thoughts from Los Angeles. Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays.

  18. pseudonymous in nc says:

    I’m inclined to go with EW’s second hypothesis, which is that Steele’s sourcing started to dry up and then got replenished with plausible stuff that existed adjacent to whatever shite was actually going on during the late stages of the election campaign. Its primary value as a source is that it points (somewhat) to the motivations and “believed to be believed” of various people with access to it during that period, especially to those who didn’t have access to other material. Hence Le Carré and Ben Macintyre regarding him as a “patsy, effectively”, whose work contains enough truth to indicate that the Idiot is compromised, but also enough to give people like Andrew McCarthy a reason to dismiss the work as a whole and treat it as a poison tree.

    The NYT will never go on record about why it published the Lichtblau/Myers piece on November 1, will it?

  19. TravisV says:

    Hi Marcy! In googling about the list McCarthy’s assumptions, I did discovered your amazing blog. You know so much!

    Anyway, Preet Bharara had a 15-minute podcast re: the Flynn guilty plea that lots of folks have talked about:

    https://www.vox.com/2017/12/5/16735480/michael-flynn-plea-preet-bharara

    I think there might be a significant difference between Bharara’s take and the take you wrote here:

    https://www.emptywheel.net/2017/12/01/next-stop-jared/

    Is that podcast useful for understanding what’s going on? Do you think Bharara has a different sense from yours of the probability that Mueller currently has a lot on Flynn and Kushner that could stick / the probability that his progress on Flynn and Kushner will help him obtain more damning information on Trump’s family’s dealings with Russia?

    • emptywheel says:

      Here are my thoughts on the Flynn plea. I suggest that Flynn may not have been in the loop on the stuff that would establish a quid pro quo, and that Mueller may be using his cooperation to establish that he was ordered to deliver on that quid pro quo.

      That said, Preet’s view is absolutely worthwhile, because we should be reminded that maybe all the smoke hides only an effort to hide Trump’s insecurities about his own victory.

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