Both Rod Rosenstein and Richard Burr Chose Not to Investigate Trump’s Biggest Counterintelligence Vulnerability

Mike Schmidt has a story describing that Rod Rosenstein led Andrew McCabe to believe that the Deputy Attorney General had tasked Robert Mueller to investigate the counterintelligence risk posed by Trump’s financial vulnerabilities, even though Rosenstein told Mueller to limit his own investigation to criminal matters.

The Justice Department secretly took steps in 2017 to narrow the investigation into Russian election interference and any links to the Trump campaign, according to former law enforcement officials, keeping investigators from completing an examination of President Trump’s decades-long personal and business ties to Russia.

[snip]

Mr. Rosenstein concluded the F.B.I. lacked sufficient reason to conduct an investigation into the president’s links to a foreign adversary. Mr. Rosenstein determined that the investigators were acting too hastily in response to the firing days earlier of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, and he suspected that the acting bureau director who approved the opening of the inquiry, Andrew G. McCabe, had conflicts of interest.

Mr. Rosenstein never told Mr. McCabe about his decision, leaving the F.B.I. with the impression that the special counsel would take on the investigation into the president as part of his broader duties. Mr. McCabe said in an interview that had he known Mr. Mueller would not continue the inquiry, he would have had the F.B.I. perform it.

“We opened this case in May 2017 because we had information that indicated a national security threat might exist, specifically a counterintelligence threat involving the president and Russia,” Mr. McCabe said. “I expected that issue and issues related to it would be fully examined by the special counsel team. If a decision was made not to investigate those issues, I am surprised and disappointed. I was not aware of that.”

The story is infuriating — except it also raises a number of questions it doesn’t answer, especially coming from a journalist who himself set Trump’s red line of a financial investigation just weeks after these decisions apparently took place.

Schmidt — who has obviously been fed stories by Andrew McCabe in the past — describes Rosenstein telling Mueller not to do a counterintelligence investigation.

But privately, Mr. Rosenstein instructed Mr. Mueller to conduct only a criminal investigation into whether anyone broke the law in connection with Russia’s 2016 election interference, former law enforcement officials said.

Except he doesn’t explain how that — or continued ignorance on the part of the FBI that Rosenstein had bracketed off such an investigation — is consistent with this passage from the Mueller Report:

From its inception, the Office recognized that its investigation could identify foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information relevant to the FBI’s broader national security mission. FBI personnel who assisted the Office established procedures to identify and convey such information to the FBI. The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division met with the Office regularly for that purpose for most of the Office’s tenure. For more than the past year, the FBI also embedded personnel at the Office who did not work on the Special Counsel’s investigation, but whose purpose was to review the results of the investigation and to send-in writing-summaries of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information to FBIHQ and FBI Field Offices. Those communications and other correspondence between the Office and the FBI contain information derived from the investigation, not all of which is contained in this Volume.

Sometime before March 2018, a period that may entirely post-date McCabe’s resignation on January 29, 2018, Mueller embedded FBI Agents into his team who knew what he was and wasn’t doing on counterintelligence. It seems impossible that FBI had no idea about the scope of Mueller’s counterintelligence investigation after that point. I’m not suggesting that Schmidt is wrong (he must be right, because Adam Schiff has been saying the same thing). I’m suggesting this narrative (at least as presented in the NYT version of the story), has some gaps.

One gap appears in this passage, suggesting SSCI was simply helpless in the face of legal obstacles in obtaining information on Trump’s finances.

A bipartisan report by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee released this month came the closest to an examination of the president’s links to Russia. Senators depicted extensive ties between Trump associates and Russia, identified a close associate of a former Trump campaign chairman as a Russian intelligence officer and outlined how allegations about Mr. Trump’s encounters with women during trips to Moscow could be used to compromise him. But the senators acknowledged they lacked access to the full picture, particularly any insight into Mr. Trump’s finances.

The single thing in the known scope of the SSCI Report that wasn’t also included in the Mueller Report — with the possible except of an investigation into several other allegations that Trump had been sexually compromised by Russia — is Aleksandr Torshin’s efforts to reach out to Trump via the NRA (but SSCI itself limited its investigation into NRA, and in a few cases wouldn’t have obtained material had Ron Wyden not obtained it on the Finance Committee). One weakness of the SSCI Report is an almost juvenile suggestion that sexual kompromat would the only kind of compromising information Russia had on Trump.

But to some degree, SSCI chose not to include Trump’s financial ties to Russia in their report — that was the most persistent complaint from most Democrats on the committee.

[T]he Committee did not cover all areas of concern. For example, the Committee’s investigation, for a variety of reasons, did not seek, and was not able to review, records regarding Donald Trump’s finance’s and the numerous areas where those financial interests appear to have overlapped with Russia. In tum, the reader should not interpret the Report’s absence of information on this topic to indicate that nothing of interest was found. Rather, it should be acknowledged that this was a potentially meaningful area that the Committee did not probe. [my emphasis]

BuzzFeed reported in 2018 that Richard Burr didn’t think Trump’s financial ties to be relevant.

Burr has dismissed Wyden’s complaints. “Whether every member has chosen to come and actually spend the time to go through [the documents] is a whole other question. I’m tired of hearing the fact that we don’t follow [the money],” Burr said. “We are investigating every avenue that gives us clarity into what the mission is of this investigation, but that’s not to fall outside the mission of the investigation. I could care less how they financed a deal 20 years ago somewhere because I don’t think it’s relevant.”

An earlier report described that Treasury was providing SARs to SSCI’s investigators; it just hadn’t been asked for those pertaining to Trump and his family.

Rod Rosenstein’s decision not to investigate Trump’s vulnerability to Russian compromise is one thing. Richard Burr’s decision to similarly constrain his investigation is another. Indeed, Burr’s decision is in many ways less defensible; as a co-equal branch, it is Congress’ job to ensure that the President doesn’t betray the country.

The fact that both men — who stayed on good terms with Trump while seeming to oversee an aggressive investigation into him — chose not to look into the most obvious source of compromise suggests that someone knows what they would find.

Update: Fixed timing of Mueller Report completion and McCabe resignation as Deputy Director.

Update:  On Twitter, Andrew Weissmann says key parts of the NYT story — the ones I raised questions about — are wrong.

NYT story today is wrong re alleged secret DOJ order prohibiting a counterintelligence investigation by Mueller, “without telling the bureau.” Dozens of FBI agents/analysts were embedded in Special Counsel’s Office and we were never told to keep anything from them.

Also erroneous is NYT claim “Rosenstein concluded the F.B.I. lacked sufficient reason to conduct an investigation into the president’s links to a foreign adversary.” See DOJ Special Counsel Appointment Order, para. (b)(i).

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80 replies
  1. Chris.EL says:

    Just copied title to Michael S. Schmidt’s story published NYTimes, August 30, 2020 10:56 am ET: “Justice Dept. Never Fully Examined Trump’s Ties to Russia, Ex-Officials Say”

    with the thought and gratitude there are smart folks on EW that can assist, help us figure out WTAF is going on here.

    For sure, this is tying my brain in knots! OMG.

    So, well it makes sense that Trump is fomenting racial, cultural, political discord across the nation: it’s the equivalent of spinning someone round and round, then expecting them to walk straight. ‘Hey! Vote for me! I’m the law and order candidate’ ???????

    Help! Aarrggh… 11:36 am Pacific in California…

  2. klynn says:

    “The fact that both men — who stayed on good terms with Trump while seeming to oversee an aggressive investigation into him — chose not to look into the most obvious source of compromise suggests that someone knows what they would find.“

    This is a vital point of your post EW.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Absolutely.

      It does make one curious just what Rosenstein was so anxious to keep hidden, eh?

        • Theodora30 says:

          The NY FBI office was also a player but the media hates to report on that. That office continually leaked information damaging to Hillary to the media. They also pressured the DOJ to approve an investigation into the Clinton Foundation based on the lies and innuendo in Steve Bannon henchman Peter Schweitzer’s book “Clinton Cash”. When DOJ turned them down they opened a lower level investigation anyway then pressured McCabe until he allowed the fact that the CF was under investigation by the FBI to be leaked to the WSJ. He got fired for that approval and for lying about it to Comey. McCabe caved to pressure and interfered in the election in a way favorable to Trump.
          The IG report about the FBI’s handling of the email scandal made it clear that it was also pressure from those NY agents and their leaks to the media and to Rudy G. which was the reason that Comey made his two devastating, unauthorized public statements about Hillary’s emails. In his Senate testimony last December IG Horowitz told Senator Leahy that he was still investigating those leaks, that he had the record of all their unauthorized media contacts but still hadn’t done anything about it.
          https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/12/rudy-giuliani-fbi/

          A strong argument can be made that Comey’s 2016 October letter cost HIllary the election and solid evidence that it was pressure from the NY FBI office leaks that made him send it yet the media keeps ignoring this critical story.

          https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/1/11/14215930/comey-email-election-clinton-campaign

          We need to know if those agents still in place and helping Trump again this year. They did at least as much damage in 2016 as the Russians yet most people are totally unaware of their interference. I can only assume the media doesn’t want to burn their sources.

          • Ginevra diBenci says:

            I have a good friend who was working with that NY FBI office throughout 2016. What he told me revealed a terrifying vortex of anti-Clinton paranoia and conspiracy theories, coupled with what sounded like a frat-boy culture that sucked in field agents like a black hole. I was devastated to see the damage it did to my friend, who lost his career in the bureau after violating thirty years of sobriety. By the election he had drunk the Kool-Aid. It was my first inside glimpse of how a handful of power-hungry wingmen would go on to engineer Trump’s hegemony.

    • Theresa N says:

      No fu*king way does Rosenstein fit the Matthew Rhys role. Maybe the soulless Claudia role.

      Rosenstein just wanted to get out of DOJ with a nice going away party – that’s about the loftiness of his goals. Nevermind democracy and accountability.

      • Super Nintendo Chalmers says:

        Everyone knows the most vital question re: casting will be who will play the Mail Robot.

  3. Ben Soares says:

    I’m wondering if things were spun off to Wray , by SCO, in terms of counter intelligence. Who could he keep out of the loop ? I seem to remember Mueller himself being questioned for Senate approval referring to the fact ” he would have no problem not sharing info with POTUS”

    I believe he was being interviewed for the same position Wray holds today.

    The article seems to want to bring Wray in from out of the woods, so to say….and offer up undisclosed investigations …Kind of what Schiff seems to be implying as well …imho

  4. viget says:

    I still think this is parsing on some level as EW suggests. And I also think there were MULTIPLE CI investigations that McCabe may have authorized, this may have only been one of them, and perhaps not even the most important one.

    The question I have, has Barr tracked them all down, and now closed them?

    Regardless, this changes nothing. We still must continue to fight for justice and truth, and VOTE!

    • Benvindo Soares says:

      YupYup no doubt, I hear you . Seems like Barr is in big trouble, it seems to me he may be out of Wray’s loop …. If he was brought into to “obstruct” ? Would Wray have to tell him he might be part of a puzzle , or does he sit back and watch his (Barrs) actions?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Barr is in very little trouble, although he should be. Wray was Trump’s pick and he works for Barr. There’s little political will to look under the rocks, no matter what slithers out.

        • Ben Soares says:

          This is Robert Mueller on the Hill . I grabbed this from a Politico report Binge watching Robert Mueller 5/2019 Darren Samuelsohn .

          I have read Wray was somewhat of an understudy I think.

          “Would you, as FBI director, exercise the authority to withhold information from the president on national security matters, because the president was the subject of a criminal investigation?” asked then-Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican at the time.

          “There may be an occasion where it’s possible, yes,” Mueller replied.

          https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/05/21/robert-mueller-testifying-russia-226932

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            This is confusing.
            Arlen Specter died in 2012.

            The quote that you have put in your comment occurred in 2001.
            The way that you have inserted the quotation into your comment implies this was a conversation that occurred in 2019.

            Please be more clear.
            (I know, it’s always a challenge and I’ve made my own blunders, but this really is a stretch.)

            As for whether Wray’s an ‘understudy’… who gives a sh!t?
            He has the job now, understudy or otherwise.

            I fail to see whether being an understudy is even relevant to sussing out WTF Rosenstein was so determined to hide.

            Barr surely believes that he has so much dirt on so many people that he is untouchable. If he had been in cahoots with Rosenstein, he must *really* believe he is untouchable. Hence, impunity.

  5. Benvindo Soares says:

    The idea that funds wouldn’t be studied in regards to a so called President, that went out of his way to keep his books closed ….given all the underlying circumstances , feels like an obstruction of justice in it’s entirety . I’m curious of how Rod went about documenting his intentions or if he had to. Trimps Campaign was supposedly started with his own money. Seems to be a derivative for motive….Was it really his?

  6. EricB says:

    Since our justice system often falls short when prosecuting powerful figures, I’d like a truth-but-not-reconciliation mechanism that could subpoena relevant information about officials and their actions once prosecutions have been abandoned. I think the public narrative often turns “not guilty” or “not charged” into “nothing happened”. Having a true history is important.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      I sometimes listen to the ‘War Room’ podcast with James Carville. (I’m blushing b/c some here will tease me mercilessly, but we all have our guilty pleasures.)

      I was *shocked* to hear Carville recently say that b/c we never had justice after the Iraq War, and we never saw justice after the Financial Crisis, by 2016, government was held in such low regard that many Americans were open to Trump.

      I emphatically agree with this view, and it shocked the hell out of me that no less a partisan than Carville agrees.

      What Trump and his cronies represent is so dark, and so dangerous, that this time a ‘report’ or a ‘study’ is not going to cut it: expect epic weirdness going forward as Trump panics. We are already seeing the Mother of All Sh!tshows.

      • Alan K says:

        Yes, I’ve always been curious about the position of Obama / Pelosi on the investigations. I supposed at the time that they wanted to focus on the window of opportunity to get something done, like healthcare and green energy. But now I wonder if they were told, as Johnson was upon hearing that Nixon had made a deal with South Vietnam before the election, that it would shock the people if they learned the truth about how things are done.

        • Greg Hunter says:

          I was in Romania at the time and when he picked Timmy G I knew the fix was in….I wanted to fly to Rome to protest his initial meeting with the Bank.

      • Ollie says:

        Oh so do I! I was shocked when O did nothing but as soon as I saw he kept the same Financial Advisers I knew there would be no justice. I am 71 and I am truly scared. Trump even gave his game away in early campaigning when the tape came out: forget what you read, don’t listen to fake news, don’t believe everything you see, just believe what I tell you and the hypnotic trances grew…..

        Great comment.

        • Maureen A Donnelly says:

          all of the criming by presidents was given the green light by Ford letting Nixon get away with criming hard on the constitution for an election he won in a landslide. we have been spiraling down the rathole ever since. Iran Contra, Iraq WMD, the mother of all bombs. etc. it’s all so gross. ignore the hatch act, only pay attention to some laws. we are now a banana republic. a crappy one. hopefully citizens will have one eye open come november.

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            I have never, ever seen the kind of political engagement that is obvious this year — even in a time of social distancing and COVID.

            In terms of the Electoral College and population distribution, the GOP has a huge advantage.

            (Carville has a phrase – something like 18% of the US population votes for 52 senators.)

            This has to be kept clearly in mind, and IMVHO it is one basis for GOP impunity: in Jan 2020, they didn’t actually believe they could lose the Senate when they absolved Trump of impeachment charges.

            They still believed that GOP control of the Senate was a given, and that was only 8 months ago. They have appointed judges and administrative staff to ensure that criminal conduct stays hidden. The battle for Senate control is a doozy, and we can begin to see why.

  7. Savage Librarian says:

    Maturity in the Republican party took a nosedive long ago, especially when it lured in the Dixiecrats. It’s been a down hill journey for ages. But now that they have finally reached the gates of hell, they feel compelled to confound the rest of us in ever increasing measures. They see no other options.

    It’s no surprise they focused on some sexual components of the inquiries, and excluded crucial financial aspects. That’s just how they roll. They believe that is their path to domination: only they should have the power to control other people’s bodies, minds, and money. They are relentless in their cheating, lying and stealing.

    Sure, sure, everyone’s equal. It’s just that some are more equal than others. Obviously, they consider themselves the more equal ones. That’s why it is so important for us to vote. I am hopeful that this is becoming more apparent to those who have been reluctant to vote in the past.

    • Chris.EL says:

      How does a dude with so many skeletons AND zombies in his closet manage to get NOMINATED for the presidency, let alone ELECTED?

      Dancing along, from NPR Jan. 23, 2016:

      “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” Trump remarked at a campaign stop at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. “It’s, like, incredible.”

      The businessman, whose Trump Tower stands on the major Manhattan thoroughfare, cracked the joke Saturday to a receptive audience at the Christian college.” …

      Another benefit to Trump (keeping himself in Putin’s good graces) is keeping any information related to Trump Model Management under wraps.

      In August 2016 a model related that girls entering the U.S. were instructed to lie about their intended activities and address where they would be staying.

      Evidently these very young girls were Russian. Consequently, upon leaving the U.S., they could disappear into Russia and any attempts to interview them would fail; especially with Putin’s help! The business abruptly closed in 2017.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        The Trump modeling agency, which went by several names, brought in young women (typically teenagers) from a variety of countries. It exploited them by keeping their visa status in limbo, packing them into group living situations and charging extortionate rent, and witholding almost everything from their pay. This was unfortunately fairly typical for model agencies circa 2000. Several have in fact been interviewed, including Melania Knauss Trump. I wouldn’t take her word for much though.

        • Chris.EL says:

          agree, but Trump Model Management continued until 2017, when Trump was inaugurated.

          Interesting, the photos of Epstein, Maxwell, Trump and Melania … looking pretty chummy!

          Also interesting how Melania has tinkered with the spelling of her first and last name over time. Hmmm.

          Frankly, Trump is just a crook; he has pretty much admitted it himself over and over.

          Why won’t the people of America listen?

          Trump also used undocumented workers to build his golf courses. Reliable journalists have reported and documented this.

          Why won’t the people of America listen?

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “Rod Rosenstein led Andrew McCabe to believe that the Deputy Attorney General had tasked Robert Mueller to investigate the counterintelligence risk posed by Trump’s financial vulnerabilities, even though Rosenstein told Mueller to limit his own investigation to criminal matters.”

    What’s odd is that Trump’s “financial vulnerabilities” most likely are “criminal matters.” It’s the obvious place to look for criminal conduct, criminal associations, and the proceeds of crime. Yet, like Area 51 (and half of the 85% of Nevada owned by the Feds), it was a No-Fly zone for the DoJ and FBI. Something rotten there.

    • Chris.EL says:

      It occurred to me that snapping Bannon off the Chinese billionaire’s yacht and arresting Bannon is to start the process of getting him to flip on the entire CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE!

      Where, oh where, would Bannon go for witness protection? Mars?

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Not to be too off-topic, but I think this follows from your comment.
        Weird as it may sound, I’ve wondered whether the arrest of Jeffrey Epstein was some kind of ‘warning’ or ‘calling card’ in some strange, bizarre, behind-the-scenes knife fight. After all, Epstein (and Maxwell) had been flouting money, sex, and underage girls for years. Someone surely wanted info from Epstein, and here’s hoping that the FBI has found a ton of evidence in his homes.

        And the weekend that he was captured, Trump went completely off the rails with his 4th of July 2019 remarks about the Continental Army ‘taking over the airports’ circa 1776. IOW, at the time that Epstein was arrested, Trump went bonkers.

        Bannon is likely to favor his own hide over Trump’s. Let’s hope his health holds indefinitely.

        https://time.com/5620936/donald-trump-revolutionary-war-airports/

        • Savage Librarian says:

          Today, after reading the Daily Beast article below, I wonder about Lana Pozhidaeva. She looks similar to the young woman in the photo with Deripaska and Millian at SPIEF 2016. They could be cousins, sisters, or the same person. Or, of course, totally unrelated people. But they both have the same color hair and eyes.

          Jeffrey Epstein’s Right-Hand Mystery Men – 8/30/20
          …..
          “As The Daily Beast has previously revealed, Indyke also represented the women’s empowerment business of Lana Pozhidaeva, a Russian model in Epstein’s orbit. In 2018, Indyke filed trademark paperwork and registered the website for Pozhidaeva’s business, WE Talks. Records show that weeks after Epstein’s suicide, Pozhidaeva swapped Indyke for another lawyer.”

          https://www.thedailybeast.com/jeffrey-epsteins-right-hand-mystery-men

          Deripaska & Millian at SPIEF 2016 with blue eyed, dark haired young woman:

          https://mobile.twitter.com/wendysiegelman/status/882018852430913537

          Google Images has more photos of Lana Pozhidaeva.

  9. Rugger9 says:

    Especially galling is the financial information that was known pointed so clearly to DJT desperation, i.e. that only Deutsche Bank would loan to his companies, since he burned every other financial bridge. DB for its part had already been busted as a Russian money launderer by the EU (IIRC) so adding two and two was relatively easy to do here. But, as the GOP has done in its search to protect its power at all costs, they decided that there was nothing to see here and tossed out Burisma for the MAGA rubes.

    Pelosi needs to haul DNI Ratcliffe into the House Permanent Select Committee on intelligence and impeach DJT if he tries anything to stop it.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Nancy Pelosi hasn’t shown the slightest interest in ever doing anything of the kind. She has fought against it. We need to look elsewhere for leadership.

      • Ben Soares says:

        … she has referenced Trimp …. in writing as an impostor 7 times by my count. She ripped his speech up for the world to see. She’s most likely the most read-in person in DC on all things secret going back decades, she has Dreebin hanging around in her corner. I wouldn’t underestimate her …

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Having power and using it are not the same thing. Politicians are measured by what they do, not by the thoughts and prayers they throw like pennies on a playground. What king needs to ask his knights, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome letter writer?” The time is past for harsh language, thrown against an opponent who doesn’t read, knows no shame or restraint, and has nothing to lose.

      • BobCon says:

        She will be a lame duck in her next session per her deal with opponents in January 2019.

        Progressives need to figure out how to win her spot, assuming she doen’t renege. Hoyer and Clyburn will be in their 80s in 2023. Pelosi may try to install some stooge like Jeffries, but I don’t think there is an unbeatable establishment rep.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          IMVHO, much depends on the Senate.
          The IQ points on the Dem side appear to be impressive. Also, guts:
          AK – Gross (Ind)
          MT – Bullock
          CO – Hickenlooper
          NM – Lujan
          ME – Gideon
          KY – McGrath
          NC – Cunningham
          SC – Harrison
          GE – Ossoff

          This group of people would completely remove any claims of the GOP and Trump about ‘radical coastal elite Dems’, because Bullock, Hickenlooper, Kelly, and the rest all appear to be primarily pragmatists. And they are from ‘flyover states’ and ‘red states’. (Who knew those voters wanted medical coverage and broadband?!)

          No-one in their right mind could dismiss MT as a liberal, hippie-ridden Lefty, coastal elite state. Ditto NM or AZ. Ditto SC and NC.

          Once the tired GOP whining about ‘libtards’ and ‘coastal elites’ is made irrelevant by smart centrist Dems in the Senate, then the House would have to respond to that completely refreshing, long-overdue dynamic.
          It’s entirely possible.

          • MB says:

            Also in the governor’s race in MT, it’d be nice to see that reporter-punching Gianforte is defeated by his challenger Cooney.

          • Tracy Lynn says:

            Two points: Since when does the House have to “respond” to potential elections of Democratic senators? I don’t understand the point here. Then the second point is Republicans — enabled by the MSM, don’t care what states the Democrats represent–they will ALWAYS call Democrats “libtards” and other stupid slurs.

            • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

              Currently, it is hard to imagine that there is much trust between House and Senate leadership. At this point, McConnell appears to be sitting on the sidelines, unable to keep his own caucus together.

              More – centrist – Dems in more ‘purple states’ changes the context of everything. That shifted context then leads to other shifts, which would be necessary to ‘build back better’, let alone have a civil conversation out of DC.

              Let the GOP holdovers whinge about ‘libtards’: they are speaking to an ever smaller, ever more radicalized group of people. They’d no longer be speaking to ‘mainstream’, if they are even today. People are so fed up with the b.s. and insults that if the GOP wants to squander its remaining screen time hurling insults, let them. Few and fewer people have the patience to listen.

            • BobCon says:

              The composition of the Senate is one factor among many, since I think it works as a rough proxy for how confident House Dems feel about moving in different directions.

              But I think much bigger factors are voting blocs in terms of state and region, race, gender, age and committee.

              Fundraising ability and personality matter a lot. But I also think strategic vision matters.

              I think the 2020 election will be a scarring event, even if the Democrats have a strong hold on two branches of government. (If they fail, who knows.) The ability to come up with a convincing response to the furthering radicalization of the GOP is going to matter — I think any candidate who offers a mushy Pelosi/Hoyer platform will face a tough challenge if there is a strong progressive alternative.

              • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

                Bob, you’ve synthesized it more clearly than I have.
                Thank you for this; I am confident that your shrewd analysis nails several key factors.

                IMVHO, one factor is Dem confidence, but that would come out of legitimacy. As the Dems struggle against almost insurmountable odds, they have to be *tough and smart* (reminds me of wild salmon, and how having to swim up all the fish ladders and waterfalls made them so damn strong and phenomenally resilient). These Dems are much, *much* tougher than the GOP dilettantes like Lindsay Graham or Marsha Blackburn.

                As these Dems finally win and succeed against almost impossible odds (18% of Americans vote for 52 Senate seats), their credibility will be indisputable, and *that factor* has certain interests flipping out. These are not the old FDR Dems; this is a new, tough cohort.

                I also strongly agree with your sense of regionality: the Mountain West GOP — Risch (ID), Romney (UT) is not like the Plantation/Evangelical GOP of Richard Shelby (AL), Ted Cruz (TX), and Inhofe (OK).

                (Jim Risch-ID was acting governor of Idaho, so I put Risch-Romney actually closer to pragmatic Bullock (MT) and Hickenlooper (CO) than to the whackadoodles in the Plantation/Evangelical/Oil-and-Gas GOP.)

                IMVHO, Romney was the first sign of a coming fracture in the GOP, between those still in touch with reality, and those who were convinced by Rove that ‘we make our own reality’. To an extent, we do make our own reality, but when it is no longer consistent with physics, biology, and gravity, it becomes a form of slow suicide.

          • hollywood says:

            I appreciate your viewpoint and give to ActBlue. I think control of the Senate is even more important than getting the presidency. Both would be great. Then we can get some meaningful reforms.

        • Mitch Neher says:

          Maybe Karen Bass won’t turn the job down the second time around.

          Biden might have input on the question.

      • Rugger9 says:

        I would agree with what she will do, but I’m talking about what she should do. Schiff for his part is making the right noises.

        However, knowing this WH and DJT, I expect them to do something to force Pelosi’s hand, maybe a bombshell about Putin interfering now coming out of the UK for example. WI Gov. Evers asked DJT not to come “visit” Kenosha (which isn’t liberal AFAIK) and DJT hammered out 89 tweets between 5:49 and 8:05 AM this morning after the Portland OR mayor called him out, that’s one about every 90 seconds.

        So, that means DJT can be set off into something that Pelosi must respond to by impeachment.

  10. BobCon says:

    The thing that has been bugging me for a long time is the investigation into the Russian interference that was trolling and promoting social media discord. Schmidt’s lede suggests this investigation may have been shut down, but the article never addresses it further (maybe it comes up in his book).

    Mueller’s team seems to have jumped on it early, but that was most of what they did. Was that all there was?

    I know there was the misfire with Concord that tied part of this in knots, but what emerged seemed pretty small potatoes. It’s hard for me to believe this stuff has a major CI element. There was nothing heavily cloak and dagger about the St. Petersburg operation — setting up Facebook groups, sending Tweets, and funnelling small amounts of cash to rally organizers hardly seems like it needs heavy secrecy.

    But it would be very important to the integrity of US elections for every dope thinking about collaborating on some 2nd Amendment rally with unknown trolls to have a set of prosecutions of similar dopes in mind.

    Knowing whether the Mueller team in fact caught it all would be important. So would knowing whether it was split off and then smothered.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      And what if there is a Facebook component that implicates some of their Republican executives? And associates of those executives? Will we ever know about that?

    • subtropolis says:

      Is this for real?! Mueller secured more than two dozen indictments against Russian individuals and three companies! Try to keep up.

      • BobCon says:

        That’s pretty obnoxious.

        At any rate, the question is whether the scope of Russian trolling operations was well encapsulated by Mueller’s indictments. If you have evidence that it was, please offer it.

        This post by MW notes that the Mueller indictments only touched on a subset of Russian trolling as it pertains to Trump-Clinton.

        https://www.emptywheel.net/2018/02/17/what-did-mueller-achieve-with-the-internet-research-agency-indictment/

        I think there is good reason to believe Mueller was not attempting to carry out a comprehensive investigation of 2016 Russian trolling, and may well have been interested in only establishing a large enough subset of it to fit into the rest of his investigation. If so, the question is what, if anything, was done about the rest of it. Since much of it was not indictable, and Mueller was directed to focus on indictments, that also raises the question of whether that direction was, at least in part, designed to curtail this avenue of investigation.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Plus, we don’t know how much obstruction Barr committed behind the scenes. The options were many: playing with budgets and back office approvals; changing assignments, personnel, supervisors, and reporting requirements; terminating investigations early or limiting their scope.

          Barr is an expert at that and more, and at hiding his tracks. It was what he did his first tour as Attorney General.

  11. Eureka says:

    Apropos of Burr’s devil-may-care attitude about Trump’s finances — as in the August 2018 BuzzFeed quote you posted– it seems like a good time to re-raise the roles of (NC) GOP mega-donors Wos and DeJoy, take some glances at their ecosystem niches.

    Former W-admin Ambassador to Estonia Wos’ debut as a Trump appointee came in May 2017 (vice-chairwoman of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships), though a potentially much bigger trip as Ambassador to Canada sits on Lindsey Graham’s proverbial desk at the moment.

    In November 2019, Wos and DeJoy buttered-up Burr with a proclamation of financial support from their charity for Burr’s to-be library (The Burr Center at Wake Forest University). The promised support came the day after the inaugural — and only, to date — event hosted by the Burr Center: Burr and Warner discussing their SSCI roles (wrt this investigation).

    Links and discussion at these threads (some context is the suggestion of sweet NC carrot/bitter DOJ stick —>Burr):

    https://www.emptywheel.net/2020/08/17/work-in-progress-saving-the-usps/#comment-854420

    https://www.emptywheel.net/2020/08/20/crowdsourced-timeline-torching-the-usps-work-in-progress/#comment-854838

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Hmm. I shared this poem at least 10 months ago. Who could have guessed that Estonia and Corona would have fresh relevance today? Let’s hope the rest is just as predictive.

      Make America Greed Again

      The American standard version
      of how Persona ditched the Person
      incorporates some immersion
      into coercion and diversion.

      That’s not to say desertion
      was the least bit less urgent
      but only to cast aspersion
      on thinking things can’t worsen.

      The Person found Persona
      at a dive bar in Daytona.
      They shared a cold Corona
      and yakked about Estonia.

      Then they both were shown a
      live shark that had grown a
      foot by a man in a kimono
      who claimed to be the owner.

      Soon Persona Non Grata
      entered too and got caught up
      where the talk, like fierce lava,
      was spewing up far hotter.

      This was no bourgeois drama
      with “thank you” and “de nada,”
      This was more like “not gonna.”
      Destination rock bottom.

      And, so it was. Lesson learned:
      Persona’s fate was well earned,
      The Person was duly spurned,
      Persona Non Grata, burned.

      But everyone else still yearned
      to murmur of the concerned
      who wanted it all adjourned
      as if the world had not turned.

  12. Zinsky says:

    I find it both disturbing and amusing that the Senate Intelligence Committee put in their report clear indicia of investigative bias with the words , “the Committee’s investigation, for a variety of reasons, did not seek, and was not able to review, records regarding Donald Trump’s finance’s and the numerous areas where those financial interests appear to have overlapped with Russia…” First, as Marcy highlights, why did they “not seek” records relating to the most obvious area where kompromat could be used against Trump – his shaky and highly questionable revenue sources? Craig Unger, in his brilliant book, House of Putin, House of Trump outlines shady business dealings between Trump and Russians dating back to the 1980s! Unger provides page after page of endnotes with supporting links and references. It’s not like Trump’s lifelong shady financial dealings are some big secret. Further, Rosenstein’s actions of not carrying forward the CI aspects of the FBI’s investigation into Trump in the Mueller probe shows clearly that Rosenstein is a bad faith actor. So, in my mind, Rosenstein is an accomplice before and after the fact to the Trump campaign’s seditious cooperation with Russia and the GOP jerks on the Committee are either the biggest dolts in American history or accessories after the fact to Donald Trump’s massive and on-going world-wide financial fraud and conspiracy.

  13. Rugger9 says:

    OT, sort of: it seems the DCC has ruled 8-2 against Flynn. It seems the two dissenters were the ones on the original panel which is why en banc is needed. I find it interesting that none of the other judges agreed with Rao and Henderson, even though there are conservatives here. So, Sullivan gets to ask his questions unless SCOTUS is dragged in. I think Roberts will try to duck this one, since Flynn is a “hill not worth dying on” in the legal precedence sense. However only 4 justices are needed for cert.

    The ruling is embedded here.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/appeals-court-rejects-flynn-bid-to-force-judge-to-end-criminal-case-no-questions-asked

    • Chris.EL says:

      was looking for an appropriate spot for this, well here goes:
      From Forbes, this took place August 28, 2020.

      … “On Aug. 28, six U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota flew over all 30 NATO countries in a single day.
      Yes, even Canada.” …

      I’m such a sucker for those B-52’s; now that’s a plane!

      Title of story:
      “That U.S. Air Force B-52 Flying Over The Black Sea Was Bait For The Russians”

      How do we know (even if this is NATO) that the data won’t get back to Putin so he can fix the radar leaks?

      • blueedredcounty says:

        B-52s have a huge radar cross section, partly from having eight fan sections hanging out in the open for maximum reflectivity. I believe any radar gaps the B-52 could have exploited were closed no later than the early 1960s, and probably before the U-2 was shot down.

        • Chris.EL says:

          so my thinking is traveling this path: send the B-52s out, radars are activated, send data – point A to point B, etc. and the accompanying specialized planes monitor, document and record all this.

          From the story:

          … “Understanding those Russian defenses is top job of NATO intelligence. Which apparently is why, when NATO01 flew through international air space over the Black Sea, two U.S. Air Force RC-135V/W Rivet Joints were nearby.

          The four-engine RC-135V/Ws are electronic-intelligence systems. Using sensitive receivers, they listen for, and help to catalogue, enemy radars and other sensors. The U.S. Air Force has just 17 RC-135V/Ws. Committing two of them to a single mission … is a big deal.” …

          NATO is gathering info on Russian defenses, Trump may be in a position to inform Russia of the findings.

          You know, like the conversation in the oval office May 10, 2017, where he gossiped with the Russian ambassador and … “revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.” …

  14. N.E. Brigand says:

    Speaking with Rachel Maddow this evening, Michael Schmidt said that Rod Rosenstein, in explaining to Andrew McCabe why he had been premature in starting a counter-intelligence investigation into Donald Trump’s Russian connections, told McCabe that it didn’t matter why Trump took actions that were positive to Russia, and that voters elected Trump knowing he was friendly toward that nation.

  15. retiarius says:

    Why do further insights on Trump’s messes have to wait for book releases?

    Schmidt was on Rachel Maddow tonight because stuff germane to this all
    will be released in his book due out tomorrow. Among other things on the show,
    he said that he was in touch with someone who has seen the *unredacted*
    Mueller report and that the redactions showed nothing about a further CI
    or the follow-the-money angle. So there goes the theory that *harm to ongoing matter*
    might have taken up the baton. (But maybe that’s just SDNY vs. NYAG.)

    Then there’s this coy Andrew Weissmann comment, that there was no restriction
    on the Mueller “remit” by Rosenstein. So maybe they were self-censoring but we’ll
    only know when Weissmann’s book comes out at the end of September. (From the
    jacket copy: “Weissmann puts the reader in the room as Mueller’s team made their most consequential decisions, such as whether to subpoena the president, whether to conduct a full financial investigation of Trump, ….”)

    Shades of John Bolton! If there is a hair-on-fire national security emergency
    to be nipped in the bud, why can’t someone just get it all out there after
    years of beating around the bush? I guess it all normalized now with GOP
    aiding/abetting, and Pelosi is right that all we can do is vote, and just project
    “thoughts and prayers” that foreign interference/ U.S. voter suppression/gerrymandering/
    Facebook complicity/October surprises etc. etc. will save the day.

  16. Nehoa says:

    One question I ask myself is, “if he was not President, would Trump get any kind of security clearance?” Of course not. He has had compromising activities with Russians for decades. This not new or unknown.
    His dealings with Putin since taking office have been nothing short of alarming. Those saying there have been no predicates for investigating him as a security risk to the country are almost as complicit as he is. Sally Yates correctly called out Michael Flynn for just providing a means for Russian coercion. Trump has gone way beyond that, and Putin coerces (spell check help me here) away.

  17. Chris.EL says:

    Response to Nehoa,
    Agree completely!
    Getting late here in California, almost 10 pm.
    I’ve never really been that much into politics, but this nasty man MUST BE STOPPED! THIS NASTY MAN MUST BE “SHOWN THE DOOR”; HANDED HIS HAT AND GOLF CLUBS!

    Let’s all get ready to waive bye bye to the liar liar!

    Don’t forget the Central Park Five; Trump decided they were guilty! Wanted them dead. WANTED THEM DEAD! Even after EXONERATION, still wanted them dead!!!!!
    Was looking at video on NYTimes tonight. Photos of the man shot dead with some buddies hours before his death. His buddy had paintball gun, (they also had knives), and at least six plastic zip ties. Why do they need to have zip ties handy?????

  18. hollywood says:

    I appreciate your viewpoint and give to ActBlue. I think control of the Senate is even more important than getting the presidency. Both would be great. Then we can get some meaningful reforms.

  19. Tom says:

    I may be wrong about this, but it almost seems as if there was a collective and unspoken unwillingness to grasp the nettle on the part of the DOJ. The situation reminds me of a wife who suspects her husband is having an affair. She could hire a detective to track his movements and then confront her husband with the evidence of his unfaithfulness, but then she’d have to deal with the emotional turmoil, the public embarrassment, and all the other resulting fallout. The wife might then decide it was better to ignore her husband’s philandering (say, for the good of their children) in hopes he would eventually get over it.

    So I wonder if the DOJ thought it was better not to know the full extent of Trump’s Russian entanglements for fear of the damage it would cause to the reputation and prestige of the US on the international stage; i.e., that America had elected a man to serve as President who was not only manifestly unfit for the job but also beholden to and/or in cahoots with a foreign adversary. Was there a concern that, even if Trump’s corrupt Russian dealings were exposed, it would make no difference to the 35% or so of the populace who supported him or to Trump’s GOP defenders in Congress? In which case the US would be in the position of a country whose President had been publicly exposed as fatally compromised to a foreign adversary but who faced no consequences for his actions and was still allowed to occupy the most powerful position in the world.

    Perhaps this was a case of thinking that the cure would be worse than the disease, that it was better to let Trump’s dirty Russian laundry remain festering in the dark, at least for the time being, and hope that Trump could somehow be managed, that the damage he was causing could be mitigated, and that he would self-sabotage his Presidency through his own incompetence or, at the worst, be only a one term President, after which there would be plenty of time and opportunity to pursue an investigation without Trump having the legal advantages of a sitting President.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      Tom, whom do you mean by “the DOJ”? It sounds like some kind of star chamber, making (arguably treasonous) decisions behind the curtain for our own good. If I am reading your hypothetical correctly, this would have occurred in 2017 or possibly 2018: under the aegis of Jeff Sessions, the Recused AG. I can’t picture Rosenstein assigning himself this much power. So how do you imagine this played out?

      • Diogenes says:

        At the absolute BEST what Tom is arguing for here is a situation a la JFK, where the powers that be decide that the truth (rogue intel, mafia, cubans, russia, big oil, whatever) is too much for the american people to bear.

        But I dont think Tom has thought this through very far, as we’re talking about trying to envision motives / reasons not just for covering up a past crime — but for covering up a past crime AND a crime underway as well.

        A crime with the highest possible extent for damage, as we can see in the news every fucking day.

        In other words: there is no charitable interpretation for what Rosenstein seems to have done here — there is a major-ass corrupt motive in play. Mueller got played by Barr *and* Rosenstein. No wonder we’ve been so fucked from the start.

      • Tom says:

        Thanks for your responses, GB and Diogenes. I realize I was being sloppy with my terminology by using the term “DOJ”. I meant it as a short form for the investigative powers-that-be, including the SSCI. If I understand the story correctly, it was Rosenstein who told Mueller to limit himself to criminal matters involving the President and not do a deep dive into Trump’s past business and financial dealings with Russia. The result was that Mueller thought the FBI was doing the deep dive while the FBI thought that Mueller was taking care of it. But with FBI investigators embedded with Mueller’s team, there seems no reason for that separate silo-thinking misunderstanding to have persisted, if it ever existed in the first place. In any event, as Marcy states near the end of her post, the fact that a thorough investigation into Trump’s Russian ties wasn’t carried out, “suggests that someone knows what they would find.” My original comment was just expressing my frustration that after all this time we still don’t know what hold Putin has over Trump

        • Diogenes says:

          It wasn’t a misunderstanding, it was a deliberate deception. If Mueller thought those agents reporting back CI data were acting as a failsafe, boy was he wrong.

          Trump’s financials may as well be a state secret at this point. They will never see the light of day.

  20. Chuffy says:

    Since when do we ignore the concept, “Follow the money?”

    Most of us who have followed this investigation have wondered who was doing the financial investigation. I can’t recall anyone even suggesting that nobody was digging into the financial aspect. Seems like too big of a dereliction of duty to be coincidental and unintentional.

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