Posts

A Modest Proposal: Include Lindsey Graham’s Threats against Brad Raffensperger in any Special Counsel Mandate

Lindsey Graham has endorsed the idea of appointing a Special Counsel to investigate Hunter Biden.

Graham on a special counsel for Hunter Biden: I think it’s a good idea..if you believe a special counsel was needed to look at the Trump world regarding Russia. How can you say there’s no need for special counsel regarding Hunter Biden?”

Apparently, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee doesn’t see the difference between appointing a Special Counsel after the President has fired the FBI Director to stop an investigation into himself and a Special Counsel to investigate the President-Elect’s son two years into an investigation that has (thus far) found nothing. Graham doesn’t even seem to realize that various parts of the Trump DOJ have investigated — at a minimum — Trump’s son-in-law (as part of a referral from the Mueller investigation, though the topic is unknown), Trump’s personal lawyer, and any number of his corrupt former campaign managers, without needing a Special Counsel to protect the independence of the investigation, not even after the confirmed interference by the Attorney General.

The call for a Special Counsel to continue an investigation that has already lasted two years (that is, longer than the entire Mueller investigation and twice as long as it took to indict Manafort on 44 counts of tax evasion, bank fraud, money laundering, and unregistered influence-peddling) without finding anything comes along with President Trump’s call for another Special Counsel investigating purported voter fraud.

As I said in my post noting that John Durham has unaltered originals of documents that — under Billy Barr’s micromanagement — got altered and submitted to a judge, followed by a lie to the same judge, one way to deal with the Durham Special Counsel designation is to have him investigate crimes that Barr’s associates may have committed in their efforts to undermine the Russian investigation. John Durham will control the day-to-day conduct of this investigation, but he doesn’t — cannot legally, under current precedent — control the scope.

Something similar could be done with both of the Special Counsel investigations Trump wants to push. Rudy Giuliani will no doubt be pardoned in the next 35 days. And the next day, Rudy will wake up and continue pursuing the same disinformation, largely about Hunter Biden, from Russian-tied mobbed up oligarchs. So Sally Yates or Doug Jones or whoever Biden makes Attorney General can very easily ask a Special Counsel to include Rudy’s potential crimes among those the Special Counsel investigates. The Special Counsel doesn’t even have a reporting mechanism to complain about scope (which John Durham might have used when Barr was flying him around the world chasing George Papadopoulos’ conspiracy theories). If the Special Counsel complained about the scope, she could quit and be replaced by someone Biden’s AG believed appropriate. If the Special Counsel leaked anything, Biden’s AG would have the Comey precedent to justify firing the Special Counsel.

So, too, could a Special Counsel appointed by Trump to investigate voting irregularities be scoped to investigate the more credible allegations of crimes committed during the election, most notably threats and other coercive means used against those (including Republicans) trying to conduct free and fair elections. Among others whose conduct could be investigated are government employees who also served as counsel on Trump-backed lawsuits challenging the election. A Special Counsel investigating allegations of crime during the election could review fraudulent claims alleging fraud in sworn declarations submitted in these frivolous lawsuits; such an investigation could consider whether there was an organized effort to collect such perjurious statements, and if so, who funded it all. Such a Special Counsel could investigate whether then-President Trump’s multiple calls haranguing GOP officials constituted a threat or some kind of bribe. A Special Counsel could and should review the range of violent threats against participants on both sides of the election.

Among the most alarming potential crimes alleged during the post-election period, as it happens, involves Lindsey Graham himself. He called up Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, and — while witnesses were listening — pushed Raffensperger to disqualify legal votes.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Monday that he has come under increasing pressure in recent days from fellow Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), who he said questioned the validity of legally cast absentee ballots, in an effort to reverse President Trump’s narrow loss in the state.

[snip]

In the interview, Raffensperger also said he spoke on Friday to Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who has echoed Trump’s unfounded claims about voting irregularities.

In their conversation, Graham questioned Raffensperger about the state’s signature-matching law and whether political bias could have prompted poll workers to accept ballots with nonmatching signatures, according to Raffensperger. Graham also asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures, Raffensperger said.

Raffensperger said he was stunned that Graham appeared to suggest that he find a way to toss legally cast ballots. Absent court intervention, Raffensperger doesn’t have the power to do what Graham suggested because counties administer elections in Georgia.

“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” Raffensperger said.

It’s unclear whether Lindsey’s actions constitute a crime or not. But that’s why it would be a reasonable thing for a Special Counsel, one not directly controlled by Biden’s AG, to review: to ensure it receives a fair review without political influence.

Lindsey Graham seems to believe that Trump’s calls for Special Counsels are merited.

Very well then.

Even Bill Barr (in His Confirmation Hearing) Agreed that Trump Just Committed a Crime

Three different times during Bill Barr’s confirmation to be Attorney General, he agreed that agreeing to pardon someone for false testimony — as Donald Trump just did for Mike Flynn — would be a crime.

Patrick Leahy, specifically invoking Barr’s sanction of the Caspar Weinberger pardon that squelched the Iran-Contra investigation, asked Barr about pardons.

Leahy: Do you believe a president could lawfully issue a pardon in exchange for the recipient’s promise to not incriminate him?

Barr: No, that would be a crime.

Then, in this exchange from Amy Klobuchar, it appeared to take Barr several questions before he realized she knew more about the evidence than he did, and started couching his answers.

Klobuchar: You wrote on page one that a President persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction. Is that right?

Barr: [Pause] Yes. Any person who persuades another —

Klobuchar: Okay. You also said that a President or any person convincing a witness to change testimony would be obstruction. Is that right?

Barr: Yes.

Klobuchar: And on page two, you said that a President deliberately impairing the integrity or availability of evidence would be an obstruction. Is that correct?

Barr: Yes.

Klobuchar: OK. And so what if a President told a witness not to cooperate with an investigation or hinted at a pardon?

Barr: I’d have to now the specifics facts, I’d have to know the specific facts.

Klobuchar: OK. And you wrote on page one that if a President knowingly destroys or alters evidence, that would be obstruction?

Barr: Yes.

Klobuchar: OK. So what if a President drafted a misleading statement to conceal the purpose of a meeting. Would that be obstruction?

Barr: Again, I’d have to know the specifics.

Shortly after that exchange, Lindsey Graham tried to clarify the issue, asking the pardon question at a more basic level, coaching another not to testify, as Trump has done on Twitter repeatedly.

Lindsey: So if there was some reason to believe that the President tried to coach somebody not to testify or testify falsely, that could be obstruction of justice?

Barr: Yes, under that, under an obstruction statute, yes.

Lindsey: So if there’s some evidence that the President tried to conceal evidence? That would be obstruction of justice, potentially?

Barr: [nods]

Admittedly, by the third exchange, both Lindsey and Barr were hedging far more carefully about the set of facts.

But on three different occasions during his confirmation hearing, Barr made some kind of statement that said floating pardons for false testimony would be a crime.

Thanks to records made available by Ric Grenell and Sidney Powell, we know that Trump was personally involved with Mike Flynn’s negotiations with Russia about the UN statement on Israel. We also know that within two days after Flynn intervened to undermine Obama’s sanctions, Trump knew of Flynn’s conversation with Sergey Kislyak.

Flynn lied to cover that up with the FBI, and lied about his knowledge of Trump’s involvement with Mueller.

According to Bill Barr’s own testimony to Congress then, Trump’s pardon of Mike Flynn is obstruction of justice.

Shirkey and Chatfield: No One Else Was in the Room Where It Happened

Yesterday, Michigan certified its vote, declaring Joe Biden the winner of its 16 Electoral College votes.

That should not be surprising. After all, Biden won by a sound margin, and there were no credible claims of irregularities. Nevertheless it was treated as big news, with tens of thousands glued to the live feed of the certification meeting.

After the certification, per AP’s David Eggert, the Dick and Betsy DeVos backed Michigan Freedom Fund issued a statement backing the certification.

The Board of State Canvassers did the right thing today. We believe the vote to certify should have been 4-0. The election is over, & the person with the most legal votes – & in this election that person is Joe Biden – must prevail. Period.

Not long after the certification, Trump’s GSA Administrator, Emily Murphy, released a letter announcing she was going to let the President-Elect begin the transition process, even while she bitched about the pressure she had been put under and stopped short of using the word, “ascertainment,” that gives the letter full legal weight.

I wonder whether there’s not more to how it happened that Trump began the process of conceding.

All this happened just days after DeVos machine politicians Mike Shirkey and Lee Chatfield flew to DC and sat for a meeting with the President, at his request. It’s not clear who, from the White House, attended, but none of Trump’s competent lawyers were planning on it.

Within the White House, a number of the president’s top aides were expected to skip the late-afternoon huddle, including representatives from the White House Counsel’s Office. Also not attending was Ronna McDaniel, a former head of the Michigan Republican Party who chairs the Republican National Committee, according to an RNC spokesperson.

Already in the post-election period, Trump had the GOP Republican Senate candidates and Lindsey Graham pressure election officials in Georgia, in Lindsey’s case, arguably aggressively enough to break the law. The meeting with MI’s legislators came at an even more desperate moment for Trump.

After the meeting, the MI politicians released a statement offering an explanation of their own actions that would provide legal cover — they delivered a letter asking the President for COVID relief. More interestingly, they insisted that MI’s vote be free of threats and intimidation.

Michigan’s certification process should be a deliberate process free from threats and intimidation. Allegations of fraudulent behavior should be taken seriously, thoroughly investigated, and if proven, prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And the candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan’s electoral votes. These are simple truths that should provide confidence in our elections.

If Trump did do something inappropriate in that meeting — as he has done over and over and over before and during his presidency — it would mean multiple people, all with close ties to the DeVos political machine, were witnesses. Given how easy it has been for grifters like Lev Parnas to record sensitive meetings, it would be a cinch for these politicians to do so as well. If they did, that would put a good deal of leverage into the hands of that DeVos machine, a machine that prefers organized raping and pillaging of the public good to the kind of chaotic looting Trump has been pursuing.

The DeVos machine would greatly like to ensure that its brand of corporatist, Christian ideology reclaim dominance in the Republican party over the unreliable Trump frothers.

Given how poorly Trump has hidden his bribes and threats in the past, it would be fairly easy to anticipate more of the same, and to exploit them if they happened during an in-person meeting with more witnesses from Michigan than from the White House. One could do so while pretending to give a fuck about good governance (as Shirkey et al did pretend after they left the meeting). And legal exposure in the State of Michigan, with a fearless Democratic Attorney General, Dana Nessel, is not the kind of risk that Trump has any power over.

Something happened over the last several days that led Trump to grudgingly start ceding power. And no one else was in the room where that something may have happened.

Update: Eggert has a thread reporting out an interview with Shirkey. In it, Shirkey claims that “only half” of the meeting talked about the election.

Shirkey estimated that in the 60- to 90-minute meeting with Trump, ‘less than half’ was devoted to discussions on the election – ‘especially if you take out the dialogue we had with Giuliani, it was far less than that.’

“Less than half” doesn’t really help Trump here.

Sidney Powell Implicates Barbara Ledeen in Her Effort to Undermine Democracy

Yesterday, GA’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger used various means to push back on the Republicans who were trying to cheat to win. In addition to a genuinely useful thread from Erick Erickson debunking one after another conspiracy theory about GA’s vote, he gave an interview to the WaPo detailing how his Republican colleagues have been pressuring him.

He called Doug Collins (who, remember, campaigned with all the Trump felons) a liar.

The normally mild-mannered Raffensperger saved his harshest language for Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.), who is leading the president’s efforts in Georgia and whom Raffensperger called a “liar” and a “charlatan.”

Collins has questioned Raffensperger’s handling of the vote and accused him of capitulating to Democrats by not backing allegations of voter fraud more strongly.

[snip]

“I’m an engineer. We look at numbers. We look at hard data,” Raffensperger said. “I can’t help it that a failed candidate like Collins is running around lying to everyone. He’s a liar.”

More alarmingly, Raffensperger described Lindsey Graham suggesting he should throw out entire counties of legally cast votes.

Raffensperger also said he spoke on Friday to Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who has echoed Trump’s unfounded claims about voting irregularities.

In their conversation, Graham questioned Raffensperger about the state’s signature-matching law and whether political bias could have prompted poll workers to accept ballots with nonmatching signatures, according to Raffensperger. Graham also asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures, Raffensperger said.

Raffensperger said he was stunned that Graham appeared to suggest that he find a way to toss legally cast ballots. Absent court intervention, Raffensperger doesn’t have the power to do what Graham suggested because counties administer elections in Georgia.

“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” Raffensperger said.

As a number of people have pointed out, it’s a crime under GA law to solicit election fraud.

Meanwhile, Sidney Powell continues her effort to drum up support for undermining democracy. In a tweet this morning, she included Lindsey Graham staffer Barbara Ledeen among her co-conspirators.

In addition to working with Mike Flynn to try to reach out to hostile foreign governments in hopes they had hacked Hillary’s emails, Ledeen’s spouse, Michael, was the first person Flynn called when he was trying to figure out how to undermine sanctions on Russia.

Ledeen is, in spite of those glaring conflicts, the key staffer behind Lindsey’s efforts to undermine the Russian investigation. That suggests she’s also a key staffer behind Lindsey’s decision to ignore how DOJ has altered documents in Bill Barr’s effort to undermine the prosecution of Powell’s staffer.

I honestly believe that Lindsey does all this because his mind has rotted and people like Ledeen have told him so many lies he believes it. But now he’s entering a potentially criminal racket.

Palace Intrigue: Trump Prepares His Consolation Prize for Vladimir Putin

In the last two days, Trump has prepared a coup of sorts. First, he fired Mike Esper and replaced him with Christopher Miller; several of Esper’s top deputies went with him. Then, Trump installed three different Devin Nunes flunkies at several places in the DOD bureaucracy:

  • Mike Ellis — the guy who hid the Ukraine transcript and one source for the unmasking hoax — to NSA as General Counsel
  • Ezra Cohen-Watnick — a key Mike Flynn loyalist and another source for the unmasking hoax — to DOD Undersecretary of Intelligence
  • Kash Patel — who ensured that no HPSCI Republicans got sound intelligence during their Russian investigation, then pretended to be a Ukraine expert during impeachment, and then served to conduct a purge in the Office of Director of National Intelligence — to DOD Chief of Staff

To be clear, unlike these others, Christopher Miller, the Acting Secretary of Defense, reportedly does care about US security, even if he’s several ranks too junior for the job and got appointed over a Senate confirmed Deputy.

But the Nunes flunkies are there, serving as gate-keepers for the hoaxes favored by Trump and Nunes, as they have done so successfully throughout Trump’s term.

Spook-whisperer David Ignatius reports that these changes come amidst a sustained debate about what to do with a piece of likely Russian disinformation that — Trump and feeble-minded partisans like Lindsey Graham believe — will prove that Russia didn’t prefer Trump over Hillary.

President Trump’s senior military and intelligence officials have been warning him strongly against declassifying information about Russia that his advisers say would compromise sensitive collection methods and anger key allies.

An intense battle over this issue has raged within the administration in the days before and after the Nov. 3 presidential election. Trump and his allies want the information public because they believe it would rebut claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin supported Trump in 2016. That may sound like ancient history, but for Trump it remains ground zero — the moment when his political problems began.

CIA Director Gina Haspel last month argued strongly at a White House meeting against disclosing the information, because she believed that doing so would violate her pledge to protect sources and methods, a senior congressional source said. This official said a bipartisan group of Republican and Democratic senators has been trying to protect Haspel, though some fear that Trump may yet oust her.

Rumors have been flying this week about Haspel’s tenure, but a source familiar with her standing as CIA director said Tuesday that national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had both “assured her that she’s good,” meaning she wouldn’t be removed. Haspel also met personally with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Tuesday. She sees him regularly as a member of the “Gang of Eight” senior congressional leaders. But Tuesday’s visit was another sign of GOP support.

Haspel’s most unlikely defender has been Attorney General William P. Barr, who opposed a pre-election push to declassify the sensitive material, according to three current and former officials. At a showdown meeting at the White House, Barr pushed back against revealing the secret information.

Gen. Paul Nakasone, who heads U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, has also argued vehemently against disclosure, according to a senior defense official and the senior congressional source. Like Haspel, Nakasone took the unusual step of directly opposing White House efforts to release the intelligence, because he feared the damage that disclosure would cause.

With the new changes, General Nakasone reports through Cohen-Watnick and Patel and will have to rely on the legal “advice” of Ellis. So not only does this move put more senior votes in favor of declassifying this intelligence, but it puts them in places where Nakasone might be forced to accede to these demands.

Reporting suggests that Trump is seeking to make the full intelligence behind the reports described here available. Fundamentally, the intelligence shows that the US government obtained a Russian intelligence report that stated in late July 2016 — John Ratcliffe says it was July 26 but by handwriting it appears to be July 28 — Hillary approved of a plan to vilify Trump for his dalliance with Russian intelligence.

Already, this is a stupid hoax from the Republicans. It is public that, in the wake of the DNC release on July 22 — and particularly after Trump’s “Russia are you listening” comment on July 27 — Hillary started focusing on Trump’s coziness with Russia. In other words, the crack Russian analysts would have to do no more than read the paper to come to this conclusion. Nor would there be anything scandalous about Hillary trying to hold Trump accountable for capitalizing on an attack on her by a hostile foreign country.

I think Republicans are trying to suggest — by altering a date (July 26 instead of July 28) again and breathing heavy — that former government official Hillary Clinton was the reason why the FBI opened an investigation into Trump, rather than the Australians informing the US about Coffee Boy George Papadopoulos bragging about Russia offering help back in May. There’s not a shred of evidence for it, of course, but that has never stopped the frothy right.

The far more interesting part of this intelligence comes in the report that Peter Strzok wrote up, which is dated September 7. It makes it clear that Hillary’s alleged attack pertained to Russian hackers, notably Guccifer 2.0.

So a Russian intelligence report the US stole from Russia in late July 2016 claimed that, on July 26 0r 28, Hillary approved an attack on Trump pertaining to having help from Russian hackers, a report that did not get formally shared with the FBI until September 7. And either the report itself or FBI’s interpretation of it focuses on Guccifer 2.0.

Somehow this is the smoking gun — that over a month after opening up Crossfire Hurricane the FBI started investigating a claim that, starting on July 26 or 28, Hillary thought Trump was cuddling up with Russian hackers, interpreted by someone to be Guccifer 2.0 — the FBI learned that fact.

When I first wrote this up, I hadn’t started my Rashomon Rat-Fucker series, to say nothing of my report to the FBI that an American I knew may have served as an American cut-out for the Guccifer 2.0 operation (I’m jumping ahead of myself, but I’m certain the FBI investigated that claim for at least a year). At the time, I focused on how prescient the frothers were making Hillary look for anticipating that Roger Stone would first start doing propaganda for Guccifer 2.0 on August 5; best case for the frothers in this situation is that Stone somehow learned of the Russian report before the FBI did.

But now that I’ve written those posts, it’s clear that not only did the FBI have strong circumstantial evidence that Stone knew of the Guccifer 2.0 operation even before the first Guccifer 2.0 post, because he was searching for it on June 15 before the WordPress site went public, but that Stone probably had a face-to-face meeting with someone at the RNC from whom he got advance notice of the DNC drop.

In July 2016, this report is only mildly interesting, amounting to showing that the Russians read the newspaper like everyone else.

In 2020, after details from the Mueller investigation have become public, the Russian report makes far more sense as deliberate disinformation, an attempt to turn a direct contact with Stone into a hoax about Hillary.

Which makes Trump’s apparent determination to liberate this document all the more telling. It suggests that he wants to make public something, anything, he can use to counter what will be very damning allegations when this all becomes clear.

And, given how shoddy the actual intelligence itself is (at best showing that Russian intelligence officers read public sources and more credibly showing that Russia was building plausible deniability for contacts with Roger Stone in real time), Trump’s insistence on it, whether intentional or not, would serve to blow highly sensitive collection for a third-rate hoax.

I can see why Trump would prioritize this intelligence on his way out that the door. It comes at a time when he can be easily manipulated to burn the IC in ways that can only serve Russian interests.

In other words, one of Trump’s top priorities for the Lame Duck period is to give Vladimir Putin a consolation prize.

Lindsey Graham Responds to News of Potential Ongoing Crime by Promising to Ignore It

As I have been laying out, there is growing evidence that when DOJ added dates (a misleadingly incorrect one in at least one case) to Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe notes, they altered the documents in some other ways. At the very least, they redacted protection order footers in the first documents shared with Sidney Powell, but there appear to be other irregularities in the McCabe notes, irregularities that may be far more serious.

And that’s before you get to DOJ’s claims that:

  • They didn’t know the date of the January 5, 2017 meeting (even though documents in the docket make that date clear)
  • The Bill Barnett “report” was a 302
  • Lawyers for Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe had affirmed there were no (other) alterations to their clients’ notes

Those are all false, and the last one is fairly demonstrably maliciously false.

I’ve been trying to chase down places where original versions of the Andrew McCabe notes might exist, to compare with what got released in the docket. In addition to DOJ IG (which might have the notes in investigative files relating to the Carter Page investigation), I figured the Senate Judiciary Committee should have a copy.

After all, McCabe had been scheduled to testify on October 6, before he canceled on account of the GOP COVID cluster.

So I called the committee spox, Taylor Reidy, asking if they had copies of McCabe’s notes, since I wanted to use them to see whether FBI had committed a crime. She (credibly) claimed not to know about DOJ altering official documents, given the mad rush to confirm Amy Coney Barrett. So I sent her information to help her out.

Thanks for seeing if you can chase down the copies of these documents the Committee has received.

Basically, in some documents shared with Sidney Powell and then loaded to the docket in the Mike Flynn case, FBI had added (incorrect, in at least one case) dates to some Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe notes, which they subsequently admitted to the court, stating that the alteration was unintentional.

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/10/07/doj-altered-flynn-document-427280

But it’s now clear that the FBI also removed the “protection order” footers in those documents as well (and have restored them in the re-altered documents).

There are a number of other irregularities with the McCabe notes, including that it doesn’t have a declassification stamp, even though the notes talk about Worldwide Threats hearing prep.

So I’m wondering if SJC could release the version of the notes the Committee received so we can understand what those notes originally looked like.

As I know from following the Crossfire Hurricane investigation closely, I’m know the Committee takes alterations of official documents very seriously.

I appreciate any help you can offer to clarify why these documents were altered.

I got no answer yesterday. I pinged her again today, mentioning that I thought Lindsey Graham’s disinterest in what might be a crime in progress newsworthy:

I’m circling back for comment on this.

I’m considering a post reporting on Chairman Graham’s disinterest in evidence that FBI has tampered with evidence to help Mike Flynn and would post it later today.

Thanks in advance.

Reidy responded to my question about DOJ’s current actions by stating that her boss is totally committed to continuing to review events that happened four years ago.

Thanks for your patience, Marcy.

The matter relates to pending litigation and is not something the committee would have access to.

Graham continues to pursue oversight related to the FBI’s handling of Crossfire Hurricane.

And while I followed up to clarify the seemingly shocking detail — that SJC intended to call McCabe as a witness without obtaining any of his records! — it appears to be the case that DOJ didn’t even share those documents with SJC.

I tried again, noting that she hadn’t answered the question I asked.

To clarify, even though you had prepared to have Andrew McCabe testify this month, you intended to do so without his records?

Also, would you like to issue a statement about FBI’s altering documents in the month of September 2020, which is entirely unrelated to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, and what I asked about? Or does Chairman Graham not intend to exercise oversight over ongoing misconduct happening right now? To clarify, because this will be clear in any post, I’m asking whether Chairman Graham, having been informed of a potential crime happening as we speak on a matter that he has direct oversight over, is going to do anything about it?

I’ve had no response, from which I guess it is fair to conclude that former JAG Officer Lindsey Graham is going to do nothing about what might be a crime in progress.

FBI, for what it’s worth, yesterday referred my questions about why Executive Assistant Director John Brown certified what was almost certainly a classified document for release that lacked any declassification stamp as authentic to DC’s US Attorney’s Office.

I asked again if FBI had comment about the further alterations exhibited in the McCabe document, but got no answer there, either (I’m wondering what will happen if I report that FBI is doctoring documents to the FBI tip line).

It’s really weird that all these people who are supposed to guard the rule of law in this country are so disinterested in what might be a crime in progress.

Update: After I posted, the FBI reiterated that they still want me to ask DOJ why their EAD certified what appears to be a formerly classified document that lacks a declassification stamp.

We are still referring you to DOJ since this pertains to ongoing litigation.

I’m asking again for reference to what policies in question EAD Brown just certified to.

More Irregularities with the Andrew McCabe Notes: Bleg for Graphic Design Analysis

The Andrew McCabe notes just certified on Monday as a regular FBI document have at least four and, I think, more irregularities. This kind of graphic analysis is not my forté, so I’m going to just post what I think the irregularities are, and invite some people who are better at this to test my hypotheses.

Here’s an annotated version of the McCabe notes (here’s the original). Below, I’ll describe what I think I’m seeing.

A: The left-hand rule of the notebook at the top of the page appears not to line up with the left-hand rule at the bottom of the page. To be sure, I’ve just sketched this up, and it’s the observation I’m the least confident in, so please check my work. [Note: This may arise from copying the notebook.] Update: a reader has convinced me I’m wrong about this — see below.

B: There’s a non-horizontal line drawn to the margin to the left of where the first big redaction begins. Below it, the horizontal page rules don’t appear for about nine lines.

C: As noted here, the footer reading, “SUBJECT TO PROTECTIVE ORDER,” has been redacted. It would be restored in the re-altered version authenticated on Monday.

D: As DOJ has now admitted, someone — and DOJ has not told Judge Emmet Sullivan what government agent it was — added a date. DOJ claimed this was done with a clear sticky with a blue tab, but there’s no sign of the blue tab. Moreover, when the document was re-altered to remove the date, that was accomplished by digitally whiting it out (not the technical term!), leaving a clean white rectangle with no rules.

E: This document has no declassification stamp. The larger redaction here, by topic, must hide notes from a prep session for the World Wide Global Threats hearing that would be held on May 11, 2017. It is, by definition, classified (indeed, that’s presumably the claimed reason for the redaction). And yet there is no declassification stamp for the document. The Peter Strzok notes released in the same batch have declassification stamps dated September 17 and 21.

This document got released after a dispute between McCabe and the FBI about whether he can access his own notes. After the Senate Judiciary Committee promised Andrew McCabe he could review his notes before testifying before the committee in early September, and after McCabe’s lawyer Michael Bromwich engaged in what he believed to be a good faith discussion about obtaining those documents on September 15, on September 16, FBI told the Committee that the request was “unmanageably voluminous;” the Committee passed that determination onto McCabe’s team. On September 18, McCabe’s lawyers worked with FBI’s OGC to narrow the request. One thing FBI lawyers were balking at, categorically, was providing McCabe’s calendars. In addition, they complained that if McCabe reviewed his own notes, he would have access to material beyond Crossfire Hurricane materials (as this page has). On September 23 — the day this document was provided to Flynn’s lawyers by DOJ, according to discovery correspondence — FBI for the first time raised a categorical objection, stating that, the FBI “has a policy of generally not providing documents to former employees and does not see a basis to make an exception to that policy under these circumstances.”

If McCabe had access to his own notes and calendar, he would be able to tell whether this document has been altered beyond the date addition. On the day DOJ sent it out, they decided that McCabe could not be provided access to any of his own notes or calendars so he could provide accurate testimony to Congress.

Update: I have a request for comment from FBI’s press office regarding the lack of a declassification stamp.

Update: FBI referred me to DOJ to ask them why FBI’s EAD certified a declassified document that lacked a declassification stamp.

Update: I have asked the Senate Judiciary Committee (which was supposed to have had McCabe testify earlier this month) for their copy of this set of McCabe notes, to see if we can make sense of the document. I am awaiting a response.

Update: A reader with expertise in the area provides these notes anonymously:

A. yes, the tilt with the line (to the left) at top left, normally would be compensated for with less visible binder rings at bottom right. (to which there is more showing) so its backwards.

B. Yes, agree. The line looks like it was hand drawn. And if you zoom in at 400% in the middle of the red box B) you can see an additional line, very faint. Whited out some way.

C. if you zoom in at 400% at the redaction box, it may have been redacted twice. There are two corners at top left, that are not lined up and same issue at lower right. If they were, it would look like one, clean cornered box.

D. the lines on each side of the date are fainter and in the same distance from each other implying that there was some kind of clear sticker put on top with a handwritten date in the center. When scanning light bounces off the sides of any clear plastic tab, mylar etc. and reflects and fades out whatever is next to it.

E. No opinion.

Other observations:

If you zoom in at 400% in between each of the 3 lines at the lower left (just above the redaction box) there are other faint lines, which make no sense.

At the 3 lines above the handwritten text “possible”, it looks like there was some handwritten text there before, the dot patterns resemble writing that was there once upon a time. Can’t prove it. I don’t have iText redaction software to see if that would show editing (it may be capable or may not), but the scanner would also have to have extra dirt on that area, and doesn’t have the same intensity of dot/dirt scatter as the rest of the white spaces on the rest of the page. Same issue under the 3-6 lines under the text “not the strongest”.

Update: A different reader, who also asks to remain anonymous, sends this screencap of the document pulled into Photoshop and darkened, which (the person explains) can show things that aren’t otherwise readily apparent. The person added a ruler which, I think, shows I’m wrong about the left margin. I’ve crossed out that observation above accordingly.

Andrew McCabe Delays Testimony to SJC, Calling In-Person Testimony a “Grave Safety Risk”

Virtually every book about the FBI or the Mueller investigation that has come out in recent years has described that Andrew McCabe is a superb briefer — meaning, in part, he can present complex issues to a hostile audience clearly. That’s why the reason his attorney, Michael Bromwich, gave for delaying testimony that was scheduled makes a lot of sense.

As a letter Bromwich sent to Lindsey Graham laid out, McCabe agreed to a voluntary interview in September, provided a series of conditions were met. One — that McCabe have access to his unclassified calendars and notes — has already been thwarted by DOJ, which refused to turn them over (as Bromwich laid out in a letter to Michael Horowitz last week, after inventing reasons not to share the materials that might make McCabe’s testimony more useful, FBI admitted they wouldn’t turn them over because of McCabe’s lawsuit against the Bureau).

But another of the conditions was that the testimony be in person. Bromwich noted that Republicans spoke over both Sally Yates and Jim Comey when they earlier testified remotely. “[A] witness answering questions remotely via videoconference is at a distinct disadvantage in answering those questions,” Bromwich wrote. “A fair and appropriate hearing of this kind – which is complex and contentious – simply cannot be conducted other than in person.”

But the COVID outbreak among those who attended the Federalist Society super-spreader event last weekend has made such in-person testimony too dangerous.

Mr. McCabe was still prepared to testify voluntarily and in person on October 6 as recently as the latter part of this past week. However, since that time, it has been reported that at least two members of your Committee – Senators Mike Lee and Thom Tillis – have tested positive for Covid-19, and it may well be that other members of the Committee and staff who plan to attend the hearing will test positive between now and then, or may have been exposed to the virus and may be a carrier. Under these circumstances, an in-person hearing carries grave safety risks to Mr. McCabe, me, and senators and staff who would attend.

McCabe is not wrong. There’s abundant reason to distrust Lindsey Graham’s claimed negative test. Mike Lee was haranguing publicly at several public events last week before he was diagnosed. And Chuck Grassley (who has far more mask discipline than his colleagues, but who was unmasked for part of the Comey hearing last week) refuses to be tested.

Still, it’s crazy that SJC has become too dangerous for a regular oversight hearing, but Lindsey still plans to push on with the Supreme Court confirmation process that caused that COVID outbreak.

With a Charitable Description that Bill Barnett Was “Confus[ed]” Jim Comey Undercuts the Agent’s Entire Interview

Long into yesterday’s Jim Comey hearing, Lindsey Graham suddenly called a break. I got the feeling, watching him, that he had finally figured out the hearing was having the opposite effect as he had intended. Jim Comey was repeatedly explaining the import of the Russian investigation, distinguishing the Carter Page application from the rest of the investigation, and Democrats were reviewing all the things the Committee could have been doing rather than chasing three year old allegations.

After the break, the remaining Senators (John Kennedy and Marsha Blackburn) and Lindsey Graham seemed intent on dirtying up Comey a bit, even if required discussing stuff that had nothing to do with Carter Page.

Still, this exchange between Comey and Lindsey also didn’t seem to go the way Lindsey wanted. In it, Jim Comey undercut the credibility of the William Barnett 302 in plenty of time for John Gleeson or Emmet Sullivan’s clerks to use it in the Flynn motion to dismiss opinion. First, Lindsey asked Comey if he was aware that Barnett didn’t believe Flynn committed a crime.

Lindsey Graham: Are you aware that Mr. Barnett, who is the lead investigator of the Flynn case recently said that he did not believe there was a crime involving General Flynn?

Jim Comey: I read his 302 and I think it does say he thought that before January 5, or before Flynn was interviewed.

Comey answered that that was true before January 24. Implicit in Comey’s answer (and something that Gleeson pointed out explicitly in Tuesday’s hearing) is that when Barnett said he “believed FLYNN lied in the interview to save his job,” Barnett was confirming that Flynn had committed a crime, lying to the FBI.

Lindsey ignored that though, going on to misstate Barnett’s testimony in a significant way.

Lindsey: How normal is it for the lead investigator to believe that the person he’s investigating didn’t commit a crime, and went so far as to say he thought the whole team was out to get Trump. Is that a normal thing in the FBI? Is that something the court should consider as to whether or not this is a legitimate prosecution?

Barnett did not say “the whole team was out to get Trump.” He said, “there was a ‘get TRUMP’ attitude by some at the SCO,” and specifically excluded Brandon Van Grack from that (though DOJ hid that by redacting Van Grack’s name). He then said “it was not necessarily ‘get TRUMP’ but more the conviction there was ‘something criminal there.'” Barnett’s most significant claims to substantiate this involve a real lead Weissmann chased down (involving Manafort and Tom Barrack), and a description of himself being a dick to Jeannie Rhee because she was doing her job; both involve people he didn’t work with closely.

In response to Lindsey’s observation that Barnett repeatedly stated — in response to Jeffrey Jensen’s cues — that he didn’t think there was evidence of a crime against Flynn, Comey pointed out the fundamental problem with the entire 302. This wasn’t a criminal investigation. It was a counterintelligence investigation.

Comey: I think Mr. Barnett was confusing the nature of the investigation which is a little bit concerning, if he was working on it. It was a counterintelligence investigation, not a criminal investi–

Lindsey: No, see, here’s the point, Mr. Comey. You set Flynn up to get prosecuted. This was a counterintelligence investigation. And there was no there there. This man was the incoming National Security Advisor, he had every reason in the world to be talking to the Russians about changing policy, but this whole rogue thing, setting up an interview in the White House, going around normal procedures bothered a lot of people.

After interrupting Jim Comey as he was pointing out how Barnett’s own 302 discredits every one of his claims [even ignoring that Barnett claimed to be ignorant of four known pieces of evidence], Lindsey nevertheless repeats the point (and then goes on to misread some texts about liability insurance that Barnett himself had debunked in his 302).

This was a counterintelligence investigation.

The fact that Jeffrey Jensen kept asking about crimes is proof that Jensen wants the investigation to be something other than virtually every witness, except Barnett, has testified both contemporaneously, and since. Even answering the question about what crimes he saw seems to suggest that Barnett didn’t understand what he was doing, didn’t understand that he was conducting a counterintelligence investigation.

Only, that’s not what Bill Barnett said in January 2017, just weeks before the interview, when he drafted a closing communication for the Flynn investigation.

The FBI opened captioned case based on an articulable factual basis that CROSSFIRE RAZOR (CR) may wittingly or unwittingly be involved in activity on behalf of the Russian Federation which may constitute a federal crime or threat to the national security.

Contrary to Comey’s least-damning interpretation, Bill Barnett wasn’t confusing whether this was a criminal investigation or a counterintelligence one. He noted in January 2017 that Flynn might have been unwittingly used by the Russians (and reading the transcripts, it’s obvious how Kislyak played to Flynn’s resentments and Trump’s ego.

When Barnett focused on crimes, rather than national security threats, he was playing a role.

And in playing that role, his interview will not withstand the kind of scrutiny he may one day face if — for example — his claims about Andrew McCabe’s micro-management get him deposed as part of McCabe’s lawsuit.

Lindsey Graham, Chuck Grassley, and Mike Lee Exhibit Utter Ignorance about FBI Certification on FISA Applications

Jim Comey’s testimony in Lindsey’s Graham’s purported investigation of FISA — by which Lindsey means using the Carter Page FISA application as a stand-in for the Russian investigation more generally while remaining silent about both DOJ IG findings that the problems identified with the Page application are true more generally, and about ongoing 702 abuses under Bill Barr and Chris Wray — just finished.

As a Comey hearing connoisseur, it wasn’t bad. Notably, he repeatedly refused to answer questions for which the presumptions were false.

But as a connoisseur of hearings on FISA and FBI oversight, it was an atrocity.

This hearing was meant to talk about the dangers of counterintelligence investigations that unfairly treat people as Russian agents, meaning Page. But by my count, on at least 19 occasions, Republicans raised the investigation into Christopher Steele’s primary subsource, Igor Danchenko, for being a suspected Russian Agent. The investigation lasted from 2009 to 2011. It used many of the same tactics used against Page, Mike Flynn, and Paul Manafort. While the FBI closed the investigation in 2011 because Danchenko left the country — meaning they never affirmatively decided he wasn’t a Russian spy — neither did they decide he was.

That makes Danchenko exactly like Carter Page, someone once suspected of and investigated over a period for being a Russian Agent, but about whom the investigation was inconclusive, with remaining unanswered questions.

If you believe in due process in this country, you treat Igor Danchenko exactly like you’d like Carter Page to be treated.

And Republicans — starting and ending with Lindsey Graham — over and over again — stated that Danchenko was a suspected Russian agent in 2016 (which is plausible but for which there is no evidence) and even, repeatedly, stated as fact that he was a Russian spy. Lindsey claimed at one point that “the Primary Subsource was a Russian agent.” He later called Danchenko, “Igor the Russian spy.”

Republicans today did everything they complain was done with Carter Page, but they did so in a public hearing.

Danchenko may very well have been still suspect in 2016; that may very well have been something to consider when vetting the dossier (though as Comey noted, it could either corroborate that Danchenko had the sources he claimed or raise concerns about Russian disinformation). That absolutely should have been a factor to raise concerns about Russian disinformation. But everything in the public record shows that Danchenko was, in 2016, in exactly the same status Page will be in 2022, someone against whom an inconclusive foreign agent investigation was closed years earlier.

Still worse, at a hearing in which Lindsey Graham and other Republican Senators claimed they wanted to fix the problems in the FISA process identified as part of the Carter Page application, one after another — including Graham, Chuck Grassley, Mike Lee, Josh Hawley, and Joni Ernst — betrayed utter ignorance about the role of the FBI Director’s certification in a FISA application.

By statute, the FBI Director (or National Security Advisor) certification requires a very limited set of information, basically explaining why the FBI wants to and can use a FISA warrant rather than a criminal warrant, because they believe the desired information in part pertains to a national security threat.

(6)a certification or certifications by the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, an executive branch official or officials designated by the President from among those executive officers employed in the area of national security or defense and appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, or the Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, if designated by the President as a certifying official–

(A)that the certifying official deems the information sought to be foreign intelligence information;

(B)that a significant purpose of the surveillance is to obtain foreign intelligence information;

(C)that such information cannot reasonably be obtained by normal investigative techniques;

(D)that designates the type of foreign intelligence information being sought according to the categories described in section 1801(e) of this title; and

(E)including a statement of the basis for the certification that—

(i)the information sought is the type of foreign intelligence information designated; and

(ii)such information cannot reasonably be obtained by normal investigative techniques;

Thanks to the declassification of the Carter Page FISA applications, we can see what the declaration Comey signed looked like. In 8 pages tracking the statutory requirement, it explains (in redacted language) what kind of foreign intelligence information FBI hoped to obtain from the FISA, and why normal investigative methods are not sufficient to achieve those objectives.

Not a shred of that declaration pertains to the underlying affidavit.

And Comey tried to alert people to this, over and over, in the hearing, stating that his certification was very limited, even while taking responsibility in the affidavit that he didn’t sign (and once, in response to a question from Lindsey, stating explicitly that he had not signed). Rather than asking him what his certification entailed and how he thought about that responsibility, Republican Senators entrusted with overseeing FISA insinuated over and over, falsely, that he should have known the underlying pieces of evidence used to obtain the FISA.

Maybe he should have. He frankly exhibited some awareness of what was in that.

But that’s not what the law requires. And if the Senate Judiciary Committee wants FBI Directors signing FISA applications to have that kind of granular awareness of case, they need to rewrite the law to mandate it.

Instead, they simply exhibited their utter lack of awareness of what FISA law requires.

Some of these Senators, notably Grassley, have been overseeing FISA for decades. Lindsey heads this committee. Mike Lee is easily among the Senators who is best informed about FISA. And yet none of them know — not even with a declassified application to read — what it is that the FBI Director certifies.