The Intelligence Issues the House Intelligence Committee Largely Ignored

I watched or listened to most of the House Intelligence Committee hearing with Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire this morning. And because both sides (with the very limited exception of Will Hurd) failed to raise the issues regarding the whistleblower complaint that go to the core of Maguire’s own equities, he was largely able to dodge the difficult issues.

Maguire’s own actions implicate whether IC whistleblowers will believe credible complaints will be treated appropriately. As Democrats noted, his first actions when he received a complaint implicating the President and the Attorney General were to refer to lawyers reporting directly to the President and the Attorney General. Maguire even pretended that Bill Barr’s role in this was not a significant part of the complaint to dismiss the worthlessness of referring this complaint to Bill Barr to investigate.

But there were three other key issues Maguire should not have been able to dodge.

First is the allegation that Trump moved the summary of this call to the covert communications system to hide the improper nature of the call. The whistleblower complaint said that this is not the first time the White House has done so. This is a clear abuse of the legal status of covert operations dictated by the National Security Act, something for which Maguire has direct responsibility. Covert operations must be communicated, by law, to at least the Gang of Eight in Congress. That Trump has politicized and misused this system discredits a core means of accountability for the White House, on Maguire’s job directly oversees. And yet he wasn’t asked how Trump’s actions undermine the legally mandated system of covert communications.

Then there’s the fact that Trump is premising policy decisions not on the best intelligence, but instead on how he can derive personal benefit from them. His doing so is a core abuse of presidential power. But — as I noted this morning — it also robs American citizens of the benefits the entire intelligence system is supposed to ensure. Maguire admittedly cannot force the President to make the right decisions. But the repercussions of premising policy decisions on personal gain for the national security of the US should be a concern of Maguire’s. That wasn’t mentioned either.

Finally, there’s the allegation that someone without clearance and entirely outside of the intelligence community was being asked to share and act on classified information derived from the intelligence community. Maguire at one point claimed that Trump can do whatever he wants with his personal lawyer and that such discussions would be privileged (after, at another point, dodging a question because he’s not a lawyer). That’s the height of absurdity. Rudy’s pursuit of policy actions has nothing to do with his role as Trump’s personal lawyer. And as the DOJ IG complaint against Jim Comey makes clear, sharing even retroactively confidential information with your personal lawyers — as Comey was scolded for doing — is not permissible. Yes, it’s true that as President Trump can declassify anything he wants (though Comey was original classification authority for the information he shared with his own lawyers), but others in the IC cannot share information with an uncleared person without formal declassification, or they risk their own legal troubles.

None of this came up in substantive fashion in today’s hearing by the people who are supposed to oversee the intelligence community.

The Definition of “Collusion” as Impeachment Proceeds: the Risk Trump Poses to All Americans

It’s a testament to how crazy things have been this week that this memo — Andrew McCabe’s memorialization of opening the investigation into Donald Trump on May 16, 2017 — only got covered by obsequious propagandists on the frothy right. Judicial Watch liberated it via FOIA and actually had to focus on something else — Rod Rosenstein’s offer to wear a wire — to drive interest.

I suspect that’s because the memo paints McCabe’s own actions in favorable light (and Rosenstein in a damning light, both as regards his own integrity and his purported loyalty to Trump). Consider this paragraph:

I began by telling [Rosenstein] that today I approved the opening of an investigation of President Donald Trump. I explained that the purpose of the investigation was to investigate allegations of possible collusion between the president and the Russian Government, possible obstruction of justice related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey, and possible conspiracy to obstruct justice. The DAG questioned what I meant by collusion and I explained that I was referring to the investigation of any potential links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. I explained that the counterintelligence investigations of this sort were meant to uncover any [sic] the existence of any threat to national security as well as whether or not criminal conduct had occurred. Regarding the obstruction issues, I made clear that our predication was based not only on the president’s comments last week to reporter Lester Holt (that he connected the firing of the director to the FBI’s Russia investigation), but also on the several concerning comments the president made to Director Comey over the last few months. These comments included the President’s requests for assurances of loyalty, statements about the Russia investigation and the investigation of General Michael Flynn. I also informed the DAG that Director Comey preserved his recollection of these interactions in a series of contemporaneously drafted memos. Finally, I informed the DAG that as a result of his role in the matter, I thought he would be a witness in the case. [my emphasis]

The substance of this paragraph has been told before, albeit by certain NYT reporters who have consistently misunderstood the substance of Trump’s ties to Russia. Those tellings have always left out that McCabe also predicated a conspiracy to obstruct justice investigation (meaning, among other things, that Rosenstein himself was on the line for his actions to create an excuse for firing Comey). The emphasis, here, is also not focused exclusively on Mike Flynn but on the Russian investigation generally; as I’ve been meaning to show, Trump faced at least as much direct exposure given the investigation into Roger Stone, and his actions after he learned Stone was a target in March 2017 reflect that more than commonly understood.

By far, the most important detail in this paragraph, however, is McCabe’s definition of “collusion,” as he explained it the day before Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller to investigate what he would later call collusion. Collusion, for McCabe, is just “potential links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government,” not necessarily any criminal ties. McCabe made this statement at a time when FBI knew about neither the June 9 meeting to get dirt on Hillary Clinton nor Trump’s sustained effort to pursue an improbably lucrative Trump Tower deal, to say nothing of the fact that Trump’s campaign manager was sharing campaign strategy while discussing how to carve up Ukraine to Russia’s liking. That is, according to the definition McCabe used, the investigation did find “collusion.” Period, end of sentence.

Importantly, the first thing McCabe raised when discussing such — at that point hypothetical — links was national security, not criminal campaign finance or bribery exposure. That is, McCabe opened the “collusion” investigation to find out whether Trump’s — at that point hypothetical — links to the Russian government were making the US less secure. The answer to that question was not included in the Mueller Report; indeed, the most glaring evidence that those links did make the US less secure were very pointedly not included in the report.

This is an important lesson as the Ukraine investigation — which cannot and should not be separated from the Russian investigation — proceeds, one that has thus far been deemphasized again. Trump’s continued efforts to pursue policies — foreign and domestic — that personally benefit him don’t just amount to breathtaking corruption. They provide foreign countries more and more leverage to use against Trump to limit his policy options. Every time Trump does something scandalous with a foreign leader — and he does it all … the … time — it means those foreign leaders can hold that over Trump going forward and in so doing, limit his negotiating position. So not only do Americans lose out on having a President who makes decisions based on how they benefit the country rather than himself personally, but they also get a far weaker President in the bargain, someone who — if he ever decided to prioritize American interests over his own — would have already traded away his bargaining chips to do so.

Through his actions thus far as President, Trump has guaranteed he cannot pursue policies that would benefit average Americans, and he has done so not just with Russia and Ukraine, and not just because of his executive incompetence.

There is an impact that Trump’s “collusion” and corruption have on everyday Americans, whether they wear pussy hats or MAGA caps, an impact that Democrats have permitted Republicans to obscure. Trump’s actions effectively rob Americans of the powerful executive on foreign policy issues that our Constitution very imperfectly sought to ensure, without stripping the weakened Trump of the tools he can wield to punish those who call him on his weakness.

Because he always self-deals, Trump has made himself an intolerably weak President, one who makes the US less secure at every step. Republicans defending him need to be held accountable for weakening the US.

What we know of Bill Barr’s treatment of the ICIG referral on the Ukrainian whistleblower suggests he only reviewed it, cursorily, for criminal campaign finance violations — possibly not even the obvious presidential bribery prohibited explicitly by our Constitution it exhibits. Bill Barr did not, with the Russian investigation and has not with the Ukrainian referral, consider how by protecting Trump’s actions, he robs every American of what the Constitution guarantees: a President, not a man shopping for revenge and phallic symbols in foreign capitals. That’s why Barr had to totally distort the conclusions of the Mueller report on collusion: to hide what it is really about and to hide how enabling such activity by Trump hurts Americans.

Yet from the start, from the moment when McCabe opened an investigation into Trump, that’s what it was supposed to be about.

How Roger Stone’s Trial Relates to the Ukraine Scandal

The White House released the readout from one (but not all) of the calls involved in the whistleblower complaint. It shows that before Trump asked Volodymyr Zelensky for help framing Joe Biden, he first asked Zelensky for help attacking Crowdstrike.

The President: I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has.it. There are a lot. of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you are surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I . would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.

As with the sections involving the request on Biden, this one includes ellipses, hiding part of Trump’s ask. Also like those sections, this one suggests Bill Barr is involved in his improper request.

A request about Crowdstrike more directly addresses matters of intelligence — the attribution of the 2016 operation to Russia — than an effort to frame Joe Biden.

And this Crowdstrike request is what ties the call obviously to the timing — the day after the Mueller testimony gave Trump the belief he had weathered the Russian investigation.

Only, Trump is not clear of the impact of the Mueller investigation. On the contrary, if all goes on schedule, prosecutors will present abundant evidence of what even Mark Meadows calls “collusion,” the campaign’s effort to optimize the WikiLeaks releases, in Roger Stone’s November trial. As I have noted, in addition to Steve Bannon and Erik Prince, the trial will talk about Stone’s texts and calls to four different Donald Trump phone numbers, as well as his aides and bodyguard, Keith Schiller. (This screen cap comes from a list of stipulated phone numbers and emails that has since been sealed.)

The Stone trial (if it goes forward–I still have my doubts) will show that Trump was personally involved in these efforts and got repeated updates directly from Stone.

And a key strand of Stone’s defense is to question the Crowdstrike findings on the hack. Stone has been pursuing this effort for months — it’s what almost got him jailed under his gag. And while Amy Berman Jackson ruled twice this week against Stone getting any further Crowdstrike reports (once in an opinion denying Stone’s efforts to get unredacted Crowdstrike reports as moot since the government doesn’t have them, and once today in his pre-trial hearing when she deemed the remaining unredacted passages to pertain to ongoing Democratic cybersecurity protections and so unrelated to what Stone wants them for), Stone still has several redacted Crowdstrike reports from discovery.

Stone’s defense has focused entirely on discrediting the evidence that Trump partnered with a hostile country to get elected (which presumably is part of his effort to get a pardon). If he can support that effort by releasing currently private Crowdstrike reports he will do so.

Today’s pre-trial hearing — where ABJ also ruled that Stone won’t be able to question the underlying Russian investigation — may have mooted the effort to tie Ukrainian disinformation to Stone’s own disinformation effort. But the two efforts are linked efforts by Trump to deny his own role in “colluding” with Russia.

Judge Trenga’s Bijan Kian Decision May Hurt, Not Help, Mike Flynn

As expected, Judge Anthony Trenga has overturned the conviction of Mike Flynn’s former partner, Bijan Kian. Trenga has long expressed doubts about the way the government charged this case. And when Flynn reneged on a part of his plea colloquy, it made him useless as a witness but — following a ruling from Trenga — did not make his statements available as a co-conspirator.

While a lot of people are seeing this (accompanied by the news that Vin Weber and Tony Podesta won’t be charged) as a blow for DOJ’s new FARA prosecution practice, I think Trenga’s opinion has greater repercussions for 18 USC 951 prosecutions than it does for FARA, because he finds (convincingly) that Congress intended the standards for the former to be significantly higher than for the latter.

That said, a central part of Trenga’s ruling derived from his decisions regarding Flynn’s role in this and was, in part, a result of Flynn’s decision to renege on his plea colloquy. Because the government couldn’t call him to testify but neither could rely on his statements as a co-conspirator, it made the most important evidence fairly useless at trial.

There was no competent evidence from which the jury could find that Alptekin acted as the type of “intermediary” the Government contends. In fact, the only evidence of any association between Alptekin and the Turkish government in connection with FIG’s retention is reflected in the hearsay statements of Alptekin to Rafiekian, which were admitted not as proof of Alptekin’s relationship or role relative to Turkey, but solely as evidence of what Alptekin told Rafiekian. Accordingly, the jury had no evidence of what Alptekin’s actual relationship or role was relative to the Turkish government, and because of that absence of evidence could not find for its purposes in deciding the case that Alptekin was, in fact, operation as an agent, alter ego, representative, “cut-out”, or any other type of “intermediary” for the Turkish government.”

That’s not the only basis for Trenga overturning the conviction. He also points to Alptekin’s disappointment with what FIG delivered to support a ruling that FIG was not working at the direction of Turkey (as required under 951 but not FARA). But the Flynn head fake is a key part of this.

So while a bunch of Flynn frothers who ignore all the very public ways that Sidney Powell’s claims about Flynn’s prosecution are horseshit are celebrating this decision, unless Emmet Sullivan finds any of Powell’s claims persuasive, this decision is likely to hurt Flynn. The government has already said they’re going to write a new sentencing memo, and this opinion will provide compelling reason to argue that Flynn ultimately did not cooperate.

Trenga’s decision is, given the facts of the case, quite compelling. But that says nothing about what Sullivan’s decision in upcoming months will be.

The Implications of Russia’s Identification of FBI’s Assets

Yahoo has a piece describing a series of compromises Russia inflicted on FBI — and, to a lesser degree, CIA — communications systems in the lead-up to the 2016 operation.

American officials discovered that the Russians had dramatically improved their ability to decrypt certain types of secure communications and had successfully tracked devices used by elite FBI surveillance teams. Officials also feared that the Russians may have devised other ways to monitor U.S. intelligence communications, including hacking into computers not connected to the internet.

Among the secondary damages, it appears, were some of the FBI’s assets.

Spooked by the discovery that its surveillance teams’ communications had been compromised, the FBI worried that some of its assets had been blown, said two former senior intelligence officials. The bureau consequently cut off contact with some of its Russian sources, according to one of those officials.

At the time of the compromise, some of the FBI’s other Russian assets stopped cooperating with their American handlers. “There were a couple instances where a recruited person had said, ‘I can’t meet you anymore,’” said a former senior intelligence official. In a damage assessment conducted around 2012, U.S. intelligence officials concluded the events may have been linked.

Even assuming this is the only time in recent years Russia compromised the FBI’s assets, that raises interesting possibilities given the prominence of once and former FBI assets among those who reached out to Trump flunkies during the 2016 operation. Henry Oknyansky, who first dangled damning information on Hillary to Roger Stone in May 2016, claimed on multiple occasions to be a former FBI asset. While he claimed ongoing communications with the FBI in 2013, the last time he got public benefit parole entry to the US was in 2012. Then there’s Felix Sater, an even more celebrated FBI informant. It’s not entirely clear how long he continued to work for the FBI, but his 5K1.1 letter was submitted in 2009 and the first efforts to unseal his docket date to 2012.

At the very least, former assets would know how FBI communicated, to expose or protect the Trump flunkies accordingly. But once and former assets might also still enjoy a kind of whitelist where they might otherwise be surveilled. And while the Trump flunkies have not done this with Sater (although Judicial Watch just filed a lawsuit for this), when Stone had to admit to his contact with Oknyansky, he immediately claimed it was an FBI sting and not a genuine dangle.

Mike Flynn and Jared Kushner Had Remarkable Success at Avoiding the CIA Asset

About ten days ago, my mom died, two months after a health setback that we thought she was on the rebound from. As you can imagine, I have been and will be focused on that for another ten days or so. While I’ve been watching the imminent “FISA Abuse” IG Report (which I was working closely on before and in the days after mom’s death), the Russian defector, and the DNI whistleblower dispute closely, I haven’t had time to do deep dives. (I plan to write a post about mom, soon, but I’m not ready yet.)

I’d like to make a small point about the story of the Russian defector, Oleg Smolenkov. There seems to be a fierce contest going on — as Trump permits Bill Barr to declassify information to embarrass his opponents — to pitch Smolenkov as one or another thing.

One thing that’s not contested, though, is that he was close to Yuri Ushakov, a key foreign policy advisor to Putin. And that’s interesting for the way Ushakov figures in the Mueller Report. Both Jared Kushner and Mike Flynn got told, by two different people, that Ushakov, and not Sergey Kislyak, was the guy they should liaise with on important issues.

On November 16, 2016, Catherine Vargas, an executive assistant to Kushner, received a request for a meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. 1128 That same day, Vargas sent Kushner an email with the subject, “MISSED CALL: Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak …. ” 1129 The text of the email read, “RE: setting up a time to meet w/you on 12/1. LMK how to proceed.” Kushner responded in relevant part, “I think I do this one — confirm with Dimitri [Simes of CNI] that this is the right guy .” 1130 After reaching out to a colleague of Simes at CNI, Vargas reported back to Kushner that Kislyak was “the best go-to guy for routine matters in the US,” while Yuri Ushakov, a Russian foreign policy advisor, was the contact for “more direct/substantial matters.” 11 31

Bob Foresman, the UBS investment bank executive who had previously tried to transmit to candidate Trump an invitation to speak at an economic forum in Russia, see Volume I, Section IV.A.l.d.ii, supra, may have provided similar information to the Transition Team. According to Foresman, at the end of an early December 2016 meeting with incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his designated deputy (K.T. McFarland) in New York, Flynn asked Foresman for his thoughts on Kislyak. Foresman had not met Kislyak but told Flynn that, while Kislyak was an important person, Kislyak did not have a direct line to Putin. 1132 Foresman subsequently traveled to Moscow, inquired of a source he believed to be close to Putin, and heard back from that source that Ushakov would be the official channel for the incoming U.S. national security advisor. 1133 Foresman acknowledged that Flynn had not asked him to undertake that inquiry in Russia but told the Office that he nonetheless felt obligated to report the information back to Flynn, and that he worked to get a face-to-face meeting with Flynn in January 2017 so that he could do so.1134 Email correspondence suggests that the meeting ultimately went forward, 1135 but Flynn has no recollection of it or of the earlier December meeting.1136 (The investigation did not identify evidence of Flynn or Kushner meeting with Ushakov after being given his name. 1137)

In the meantime, although he had already formed the impression that Kislyak was not necessarily the right point of contact, 1138 Kushner went forward with the meeting that Kislyak had requested on November 16. It took place at Trump Tower on November 30, 2016. 1139 At Kushner’ s invitation, Flynn also attended; Bannon was invited but did not attend.1140 During the meeting, which lasted approximately 30 minutes, Kushner expressed a desire on the part of the incoming Administration to start afresh with U.S.-Russian relations. 1141 Kushner also asked Kislyak to identify the best person (whether Kislyak or someone else) with whom to direct future discussions-someone who had contact with Putin and the ability to speak for him. 1142

The three men also discussed U.S. policy toward Syria, and Kislyak floated the idea of having Russian generals brief the Transition Team on the topic using a secure communications line. 1143 After Flynn explained that there was no secure line in the Transition Team offices, Kushner asked Kislyak if they could communicate using secure facilities at the Russian Embassy. 1144 Kislyak quickly rejected that idea. 1145

In spite of being told to contact Ushakov twice, neither did that. They continued to communicate via Sergey Kisylak.

While it’s true that NSA was collecting Kislyak’s comms — and therefore discovered Trump’s efforts to undermine official US policy after the fact — because Kushner and Flynn did not (apparently) communicate with Ushakov, they did not alert CIA in real time.

The Giglio Brady Head Fake in Sidney Powell’s Latest

I’d like to congratulate Sidney Powell, whose motion to show cause is less batshit than the Brady motion I unpacked here (note, these motions work together, but we only got this most recent one today because it had been submitted under seal under the protective order until the government redacted the names of some FBI Agents).

Powell fancies both motions as demands for Brady material she claims has been withheld in violation of Emmet Sullivan’s standing order that the government produce Brady material even to defendants that, like Flynn, plead guilty. But the key to understanding the motion, in my opinion, comes in the middle of a list of things she demands. She asks not just for Brady material (that is, evidence that is exculpatory to the charges Flynn pled guilty to), but also for any new Giglio information discovered by the government in the last two years.

Brady or Giglio material newly discovered by the government (and by the Inspector General in his separate investigations) in the last two years.

Giglio material is information that would impeach potential witnesses.

To understand the distinction, consider Powell’s complaints about recent discovery she got, which is batshit insane on its face.

To substantiate her claim that the government has violated its Brady obligations, she points to materials Brandon Van Grack had just provided the week before this motion.

In fact, just last week, Mr. Van Grack produced an additional 330 pages that included information that any reasonable attorney would understand as Brady evidence in light of Special Counsel’s investigation and assertions that Mr. Flynn was an undisclosed “agent of Russia” or an “agent of Turkey.”2 That production also shows that Mr. Flynn passed his polygraph test in 2016 and his security clearance was renewed. This was at the same time the FBI seems to have been investigating him under the pretext that he was an “agent of Russia” and/or of Turkey. Interestingly, the new production also shows that James Clapper refused to assist in the investigation for Mr. Flynn’s security clearance, which Mr. Flynn received after a full investigation despite Mr. Clapper’s actions.

She makes several crazy ass claims in this passage. First, she boasts that Flynn was able to pass a polygraph in April 2016 at a time, she claims, that he was under investigation for being an agent of whatever country was offering the highest bid. It’s unclear when the investigation into whether he was a Russian agent started. But the investigation into whether he was a Turkish agent hadn’t started yet because the underlying conduct hadn’t started yet! Moreover, Flynn didn’t plead to being a Russian agent (indeed, the investigation into whether he was compromised by Russia may have been reopened and remain open), so whether that poly reflected about him being so is irrelevant to the charges (and therefore not Brady).

In other words, Powell is claiming that a successful April 2016 polygraph is proof of innocence for lies Flynn told in January 2017 about contacts with Sergey Kislyak in November and December 2016, and lies he told in March 2017 about a relationship with Turkey that began in July 2016 and he was actively hiding in August through November 2016, when he was getting Top Secret briefings with candidate Trump. On its face, it’s a batshit insane claim (which is probably why Sara Carter is running with it).

Oh, and remember, the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn were pretty impressed with his ability to appear convincing while telling what they knew were outright lies. Flynn is (unsurprisingly, for a lifetime intelligence officer) good at lying.

But that’s almost certainly not why Powell is interested in this polygraph (it’s also almost certainly not why she got it, either, but I’ll reserve that explanation for a later time). She’s interested in the poly because it shows that Mike Flynn was able to renew his clearance even though James Clapper, who had fired him, would not recommend he have it renewed. That is, she wants to highlight this as part of an argument that the investigation into Flynn and everyone else was part of a Deep State coup against Trump and his flunkies.

In fact, most of her non-crazy requests (and there are a number of them) fit that narrative too. It’s not about any exculpatory evidence against Flynn — he already got that. It’s about allegedly damning details about the people who investigated him, to include Peter Strzok and James Clapper and Jim Comey and a slew of other people. But that’s Giglio, material that might make these people look bad if they ever had to testify against Flynn, not Brady (and with the exception of Strzok, none would have testified against him, and FBI could have avoided having Strzok testify too).

It actually is an interesting question about the scope of Sullivan’s standing order (though as Van Grack made clear in yesterday’s hearing, Flynn actually got a lot of stuff Powell claims he should have gotten before he pled guilty before he did plead guilty first once and then a second time). And Sullivan may well rule that Flynn should get some of it. But none of that will change that he lied over and over about his behavior while in the employ of Donald Trump.

That’s not the only thing Flynn is doing with this motion (he also seems to be fishing for evidence of selective prosecution based on KT McFarland’s ability to clean up her testimony after Flynn flipped). But it is the central one.

The January 30 Memo Doesn’t Help Flynn Like the Frothy Right Thinks It Does

As I noted, some of the claims Sidney Powell made today to justify her demand for material that really doesn’t help her client got blown up, including by Emmet Sullivan, before the end of the hearing. Others, such as the fact that Michael Flynn passed a polygraph in April 2016 are undisguised horseshit. How does passing a poly exonerate you from committing a bunch of crimes after you pass it?

But I’m particularly interested in Powell’s complaint that they didn’t get a memo, written on January 30, 2017 clearing him of being a paid agent of Russia. It was another thing Sullivan sniffed out as bullshit during the hearing, noting that that Flynn did not plead guilty to being an agent of Russia. “It has to be more than theoretical relevance,” he politely responded.

Nevertheless the frothy right has seized on it like trained seals.

But it helps Flynn even less than the frothy right thinks.

Obviously, as both Brandon Van Grack and Sullivan noted, he didn’t plead guilty to being a Russian agent. He pled to two other things: lying about being a paid agent of Turkey (while getting top secret briefings during the campaign) and lying about trying to undercut the sanctions Obama imposed on Russia for helping Trump get elected.

But there’s one more problem. Over six months after the Russian agent investigation was closed on January 30, 2017, Rod Rosenstein scoped the Mueller investigation to include four allegations against Flynn.

The Acting Attorney General further clarified the scope of the Special Counsel’s investigatory authority in two subsequent memoranda. A memorandum dated August 2, 2017, explained that the Appointment Order had been “worded categorically in order to permit its public release without confirming specific investigations involving specific individuals.” It then confirmed that the Special Counsel had been authorized since his appointment to investigate allegations that three Trump campaign officials-Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and George Papadopoulos- “committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.” The memorandum also confirmed the Special Counsel’s authority to investigate certain other matters, including two additional sets of allegations involving Manafort (crimes arising from payments he received from the Ukrainian government and crimes arising from his receipt of loans from a bank whose CEO was then seeking a position in the Trump Administration); allegations that Papadopoulos committed a crime or crimes by acting as an unregistered agent of the Israeli government; and four sets of allegations involving Michael Flynn, the former National Security Advisor to President Trump. [my emphasis]

Two of these are presumably the crimes he pled to, the Turkish foreign agent and lying about his conversation with the Russian Ambassador. One might be his willingness to use his position to sell nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia (lowering US standards on proliferation in the process). The fourth might be his participation in Peter Smith’s efforts to find Hillary’s deleted emails, which included asking Russian hackers for help, but that had only been disclosed at the end of June.

Whatever it is, though, it’s clear there was still plenty for the FBI to investigate long after the “exoneration” in January.

Which may be how the government will respond to Powell’s silly claims — to lay out all the damning information against Flynn.

Sidney Powell Gets Caught Lying in Hearing before Emmet Sullivan

The Mike Flynn status hearing just ended (I livetweeted it here). The outcome is that Flynn’s sealed Brady filing will be posted tomorrow, the government response will be in two weeks, Flynn’s reply will be on October 15. The Brady hearing will be October 31.

Emmet Sullivan tentatively set a sentencing hearing for December 18, the year anniversary for his aborted sentencing hearing last year.

The government said it will file a new sentencing memorandum, suggesting they likely will say he did not accept responsibility for his crimes. Those new filings are due on December 2.

Sidney Powell stated that she does not expect Flynn to withdraw his plea, though she did suggest the entire prosecution should be withdrawn because of egregious misconduct.

The hearing itself was less remarkable than Sidney Powell’s factually impaired briefing last week. But she did manage to get in at least one lie to Sullivan.

She claimed that Flynn had not been provided notice of the Lisa Page – Peter Strzok texts. Brandon Van Grack told the court that Flynn was told Strzok had a political preference before he signed his guilty plea. Van Grack also revealed that Flynn got texts that have not been otherwise publicly released. That means Senator Ron Johnson didn’t release texts that pertained to Flynn (and perhaps were derogatory to him) when he dumped all of them in December 2017.

Powell also complained that Flynn had not been provided notice that Jim Comey “set up the ambush interview” of Flynn. Van Grack made it clear that Flynn received it before sentencing and that Sullivan referenced it at the beginning of last year’s sentencing memo. Powell excused her outright lie about something Sullivan mentioned on the public record by saying the train was pretty far down the track by then.

Powell made much of the fact that the government had already decided that Flynn would not be charged as an Agent of Russia or with a Logan Act violation shortly after his FBI interview. Van Grack noted that that’s not the benefit that the government said Flynn had obtained with his guilty plea.

Finally, Powell suggested that there might have been a prior secret investigation into Mike Flynn based off the secret NSA database, attempting to reference the allegations in the Rosemary Collyer opinion that has to do with targeted surveillance of otherwise targeted US person subjects when they’re overseas. In short, it was rank nonsense based off of Sara Carter’s erroneous “reporting” on the opinion.

All in all, Sullivan took being lied to in pretty mellow fashion. We’ll see whether that continues after Van Grack lays out precisely how batshit some of Powell’s claims are.

Scotland: A Nexus for Trouble?

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

I started writing this post back in early 2018. Might even have been very late 2017, I can’t tell now. Something about Scotland bothered me at the time even though I’m a keen fan of the country.

Now I’m even more bothered than I was when I first started putting words together about Scotland.

~ ~ ~

There is an old maxim for which I can’t find attribution: “He who holds Stirling, holds Scotland.” Stirling is smack between the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands, on the Central Belt of Scotland — the country’s heart. The saying may once have referred to Stirling Castle, but one might wonder if it means something more today.

The University of Stirling, eighth largest in Scotland, is built on the grounds of a different castle. A public school founded in 1967 by royal charter, the school is relatively young compared to University of St. Andrews (1410) and University of Glasgow (1451). It’s comparable in size to small American state universities. It reorganized in 2016 into four faculties and two schools — faculties of Social Science, Arts and Humanities, Natural Science, Health Sciences and Sport, Stirling School of Management and Stirling Graduate School.

It’s the Faculty of Arts and Humanities to which I want to draw attention, as it includes the London Academy of Diplomacy.

You may also know this as the school which employed Professor Joseph Mifsud, the Russian agent who told Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos that Russia had Hillary Clinton emails.

You probably read reporting on Mifsud’s mid-2017 disappearance. If you haven’t, check out the detailed profile on this archived page and the University of Stirling’s student newspaper online. Read them while you can; our fellow contributor Jim White noted in January 2018 how Mifsud’s profile online was being scrubbed (indeed, the underlying source for the archived site above has an odd habit of going offline erratically).

What puzzles me after reading quite a lot about Mifsud: how did the London Academy of Diplomacy end up at Stirling — who suggested it, set up the curriculum, funded it?

Why does LAD look like a clone of DAL — the Diplomatic Academy of London — but located in Stirling instead of London?

And why Stirling, Scotland, located a mere 17 miles from Gleneagles Hotel, far away from the United Kingdom’s diplomatic action? Its population is around 36,000, it’s located inland away from an ocean port, and it doesn’t even have an airport.

Even smaller Gleneagles is an interesting location; the site is beautifully rural and easy to secure. It’s been used for a G8 meeting for this reason.

Mifsud is very little less of a mystery now than he was 18 months ago, but there’s more not quite right about Scotland when it comes to U.S. politics.

~ ~ ~

Why, for instance, did Steve Bannon show up at a “secret” meeting hosted by think tank Scotland International Ltd. (SIL) at Gleneagles in early December 2017? SIL was founded and funded by investment banker Sir Angus Grossart; the think tank hosts a “secret” meeting each year.

Bannon also met with former Ukip leader Nigel Farage and Tory MP Jacob Rees Mogg that same trip — both of whom are staunch Brexit supporters.

Scottish papers didn’t stint when labeling Bannon and his presentation; he was called “dangerous” and a “far right agitator” and his reception was described as chilly.

Bannon’s appearance at SIL also hasn’t aged well; his host Grossart received the Pushkin medal from Putin in October 2018, which didn’t agree with Scotland and the rest of the UK after the Skripals’ poisoning. Why does Bannon’s circle have so few degrees of separation from Russia and Putin, even in Scotland?

It may be the relationship between the so-called “economic nationalism” Bannon claims he espouses and Putin’s desire to destabilize the EU and NATO. Grossart is also the chairman of Charlotte Street Partners (CSP), a lobbying group which sought to disrupt education reform:

“… Proposals from the Scottish Government sought to expand democratic decision making in higher education, following previous conflict over departmental cuts and excessive salaries for top university officials.

While the proposals gained support from staff trade unions and student groups, universities management representatives criticised the plans and claimed that the bill threatens the charitable status of universities. …”

Why was there such invested effort in mucking up government and organized labor and student groups? CSP’s work looks like that of the U.S. right-wing think tank Mackinac Center for Public Policy, funded in part by the DeVos family. Mackinac Center has been intent on shaking out government funding to redirect to private charter schools (school choice), undermining collective bargaining power, while promoting hijacking teachers’ union retirement funds to private investment management.

Is Grossart looking to sink his chops into management of Scottish teachers’ pension funds if Scotland’s government is rattled by whatever happens after Brexit?

~ ~ ~

It was our illustrious Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin who first triggered my spider senses about Scotland, what with his sketchy request for a military plane for his vacation, including his honeymoon with Scottish actress Louise Linton during early August 2017. A subsequent investigation by the Office of the Inspector General for the Treasury Department indicates Mnuchin’s office requested the plane on August 1 for a trip beginning August 3, and that the request was withdrawn.

That trip and any others Mnuchin took using military planes should be the subject of a House Oversight Committee hearing if not House Armed Services Committee if they investigate military aircraft flying to airports or bases near Trump hotels or resorts.

What I want to know now, though:

— Did he conduct any U.S. Treasury business while on this August 2017 trip? If so,

— Did this trip take him to the airport closest to his in-laws’ digs near Edinburgh, Melville Castle?

— Or did Mnuchin’s trip in August 2017 fly into Glasgow Prestwick Airport near Trump’s Turnberry golf course, whether or not he flew on a military aircraft?

— Were any accommodations during this trip paid for by Mnuchin or were they charged to the U.S. government, and were those charges audited against any U.S. government business conducted during his trip?

Assuming he did U.S. government business I’d expect no less from Mnuchin’s expense reporting than I would at a Fortune 500 company — all government business fully documented and accounted for with receipts.

Mnuchin’s first trip requesting and using a military aircraft was in March 2017 for the G-20 event; the routing on the aircraft request was for London/Berlin/Baden-Baden. But did this military aircraft stop at Prestwick?

Was Mnuchin’s second flight using a military aircraft in May 2017 to Bari, Italy a direct flight from the U.S., or did it stop at Prestwick?

It’s odd that both trips were so close in total amount of aircraft time — 18.83 hours for the first trip, 19.66 hours for the second trip. Very odd.

Odder yet: for Mnuchin’s eighth trip using a military aircraft, this time to the Middle East in October 2017, there’s no reported total aircraft time in the memorandum from the Treasury’s OIG (pdf). The investigation into the previous seven flights was conducted before the Middle East trip.

How convenient.

~ ~ ~

Glasgow Prestwick Airport, of course, is the one that U.S. military planes have been stopping at for refueling while their crews and passengers stay at nearby pricey Trump golf resort, on the Department of Defense’s dime. Our dime.


If you follow the tweet above you’ll note someone determined the date of this Google Earth photo — June 17, 2018 — which means the U.S. military had been boosting Glasgow Prestwick Airport and possibly Trump Turnberry as well. The House is now looking into this.

When was the first U.S. military plane refueling visit to Prestwick, though? Was it August 2017?

No, it looks even earlier, and on Jim Mattis‘ watch as then-Secretary of Defense (note the date, description, and content on the photo at the top of this article). But this doesn’t answer whether Mnuchin’s borrowed planes also sponged off taxpayers to line Trump’s pockets.

We don’t know what other executive branch departments have borrowed military aircraft and/or stayed at Trump hotels and resorts yet, either.

There also doesn’t seem to be a good explanation for why U.S. government aircraft have increasingly stopped at Glasgow Prestwick Airport before Trump was inaugurated.

… The Air Force’s use of the Prestwick airport has also steadily grown. Indeed, the use of the facility has nearly tripled — and overnights in the area increased more than five-fold, the Air Force acknowledged Sunday.

From 2015 to 2019, they said, Air Mobility Command aircraft stopped at the civil airport 936 times. Of those, crews stayed overnight in the area 659 times.

The frequency of the stops and overnight stays has increased steadily each year, from 95 stops and 40 overnights in 2015; 145 and 75 in 2016; 180 and 116 in 2017; 257 and 208 in 2018; and 259 stops and 220 overnights through August 2019. …

This doesn’t help appearances whatsoever:

~ ~ ~

This post is a bit clunky because I’ve strung together bits and pieces accumulated for nearly 18 months.

But whatever is going on in Scotland is just as clunky and badly in need of sorting.

image_print