Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Steele’

Steele dossier hasn’t provided Robert Mueller with long sought evidence of a crime or collusion

September 23, 2018

No evidence has emerged supporting Steele’s claims in the long investigation seeking a crime….

— The Steele dossier’s allegation that the Kremlin is blackmailing President Donald Trump with a so-called “pee tape” has cast a cloud over the Trump presidency.
— The Democrat-funded dossier claims Trump used prostitutes during a visit to Moscow in 2013.
— But a music publicist who has been interviewed at length in the Mueller investigation says he was with Trump for most of his time in Moscow and that the dossier’s allegations are “unlikely.” 


A British music publicist who was with President Donald Trump during a trip to Moscow in 2013 says it is “unlikely” the real estate mogul used prostitutes during his brief visit to the Russian capital, as the infamous Steele dossier alleges.

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In an interview with The Washington Post, Rob Goldstone said he was with Trump for 31 out of the 36 hours the future president was in Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant.

The Ritz Carlton in Moscow is the alleged site of the most salacious allegation made in the Steele dossier, which was funded by Democrats and written by former British spy Christopher Steele.

A June 20, 2016, memo from the dossier alleges Kremlin operatives have blackmailed Trump with video footage of him engaged with prostitutes in a hotel room at the Ritz. According to one of Steele’s sources, the video shows the prostitutes performing a “golden showers” act in front of Trump. (RELATED: Fusion GPS Doubted The Credibility Of Major Dossier Source)

Trump has vehemently denied the allegation and no evidence has emerged supporting Steele’s claims, but it is frequently touted by Trump critics as evidence the Republican is under Kremlin control.

Trump landed in Moscow in his private plane at around 3 p.m. on a Friday and left at around 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, according to WaPo. Goldstone said he was in Trump’s vicinity for all but five hours when Trump was seemingly asleep in his hotel room. (RELATED: ‘Fifty-Fifty’: Christopher Steele Is Unsure About The ‘Golden Showers’ Tape)

Goldstone, who is releasing a book Tuesday, has been questioned at length by prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller regarding his interactions with Trump and members of his campaign. Goldstone is who contacted Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016 to offer a meeting with a group of Russians who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton. (RELATED: Rob Goldstone Speaks Out On Trump Jr.-Russia Emails: It Was ‘Puffed Up’)

Goldstone worked for Emin Agalarov, a pop musician whose father is billionaire real estate mogul Aras Agalarov. The Agalarov family partnered with Trump to host the beauty pageant.

Goldstone contacted Trump Jr. at the behest of Emin Agalarov on June 3, 2016. In an email, Goldstone said a “Russian government attorney” wanted to meet to provide information about potentially illegal campaign contributions from Russians to Hillary Clinton.

“If it is what you say I love it,” Trump Jr. responded.

The meeting was held at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016. But most participants, including Goldstone, say the meeting was a dud. The Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, reportedly used the opportunity not to talk about Clinton, but to focus on the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law that sanctions Russian human rights abusers.

Veselnitskaya was working closely at the time with Russia’s prosecutor general, Yuri Chaika, to overturn the Magnitsky Act. As part of the project, she was also working with Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired Steele to write the dossier.

Goldstone said Mueller’s team was less interested in the Trump Tower meeting than they were about the relationship between the Agalarovs and Trumps.

The dossier’s claims about Trump’s visit to Moscow have been called into question, even by Steele himself.

Steele, a former MI6 official, put the odds that the “golden showers” tape exists at “50-50,” according to “Russian Roulette,” a book from two journalists who met with Steele prior to the 2016 election.

Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS, also called the credibility of the dossier’s source into question. According to “Russian Roulette,” Simpson considered the alleged source, a Belarus-born businessman named Sergei Millian, to be “a big talker.”

https://dailycaller.com/2018/09/22/trump-golden-showers-unlikely/

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Devin Nunes: ‘Laughable’ to argue Trump’s declassification order endangers national security

September 18, 2018

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said it is “laughable” to claim President Trump’s order Monday to declassify documents related to the Russia investigation is a danger to national security.

The “mainstream media” is “buying the Kool-Aid,” Nunes, R-Calif., said in an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham reacting to a warning given hours earlier by his Democratic counterpart on the intelligence panel.

In a statement, Rep. Adam Schiff called Trump’s order a “clear abuse of power” and said he was previously informed by the FBI and Justice Department that they would consider the release of these materials the stepping past a “red line that must not be crossed as they may compromise sources and methods.”

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Rep. Adam Schiff

Nunes brushed off what he described as a political “play call,” which has been echoed by other Democrats, politicos, and legal experts. “It’s laughable that they are saying this will somehow endanger national security,” Nunes said. “This is really full transparency for the American people.”

Answering a push by his GOP allies in Congress, who have been clamoring to secure public evidence showing a tainted Russia investigation and bias in the top levels of the DOJ and FBI, the White House announced early Monday evening that Trump had ordered the declassification of certain key documents that Nunes and others have had their eyes on, and more.

Among them are about 20 pages of the June 2017 application to the FISA court seeking the authority to spy on onetime Trump campaign aide Carter Page, who had suspicious ties to Russia. While it’s not the first application submitted — there were four in total — Nunes explained this one contains the main details of the other three. The FISA documents were released earlier in the summer, but in heavily redacted form.

The GOP majority in the House Intelligence Committee, with the release of a memo in February that was declassified by Trump, raised the alarm about the FBI possibly misleading the FISA court by hiding the political origins of dossier, written by ex-British spy Christopher Steele and funded in part by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Trump and Republicans have repeatedly questioned the credibility of the Russia investigation, specifically how much the dossier — which contains unverified claims about Trump’s ties to Russia — was used by top federal law enforcement officials to justify launching it in 2016. Trump’s order Monday also covers documents on FBI interviews with DOJ official Bruce Ohr, who not only fed the bureau information he got from Steele, but also has a wife who had done work for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that commissioned the dossier.

Democrats have decried the GOP efforts, characterizing them as a means to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. In his statement Monday, Schiff accused Trump of deciding to “intervene in a pending law enforcement investigation by ordering the selective release of materials he believes are helpful to his defense team and thinks will advance a false narrative.”

Meanwhile, there has been talk that Trump could be breaking the law with his order; not in regards to the Russia documents, but rather with the unexpected move of ordering the unredacted release of text messages of current and former officials, including ex-FBI Director James Comey, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Ohr, and former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who became infamous for their anti-Trump text messages.

“There could very likely be Privacy Act implications,” former Justice Department attorney Scott Hodes told Politico.

While Nunes and others, like Trump ally Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., praised Trump for allowing transparency to win, there remain hurdles. In a statement Monday evening, the Justice Department suggested that the declassification effort, which will involve multiple agencies, will take some time.

“When the President issues such an order, it triggers a declassification review process that is conducted by various agencies within the intelligence community, in conjunction with the White House Counsel, to seek to ensure the safety of America’s national security interests. The Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are already working with the Director of National Intelligence to comply with the President’s order,” a DOJ spokeperson said.

Even when the documents are declassified, Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano warned that some of them may not see the light of day. “Just because something is no longer classified doesn’t mean it’s public,” he said on air.

Former government officials explained to the Wall Street Journal that members of Congress, including those in the House Intelligence Committee, could obtain them and then release some of the documents themselves. They would also be subject to freedom of information laws.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/devin-nunes-laughable-to-argue-trumps-declassification-order-endangers-national-security

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Peter Strzok-Lisa Page texts discuss others ‘leaking like mad’ ahead of Russia investigation: Report

September 13, 2018

A newly released series of text messages from former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page — the pair involved in an extramarital affair and shared texts critical of President Trump — show that others may have been “leaking like mad” ahead of the federal Russia probe, a new report says.

“Oh, remind me to tell you tomorrow about the times doing a story about the rnc hacks,” Page said to Strzok in a December 2016 conversation, according to Fox News.

“And more than they already did? I told you Quinn told me they pulling out all the stops on some story…,” Strzok said in response, likely referring to Richard Quinn who worked as the chief of the Media and Investigative Publicity Section in the Office of Public Affairs.

“Think our sisters have begun leaking like mad,” Strzok said in a subsequent text. “Scorned and worried, and political, they’re kicking into overdrive.”

[Trump: FBI, DOJ doing ‘nothing’ in response to Strzok text on ‘media leak strategy’]

Although Strzok didn’t specify whom he was referring to when he said “sisters,” retired FBI special agent and former FBI national spokesperson John Iannarelli suggested it was a reference to another intelligence agency or a federal law enforcement agency, according to Fox News.

On that same day the conversation occurred, multiple news outlets reported that U.S. intelligence officials believed Russian President Vladimir Putin had a direct role and authorized Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The report comes after Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., expressed “grave concerns regarding an apparent systemic culture of media leaking by high-ranking officials at the FBI and DOJ related to ongoing investigations” in a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein this week, reacting to other texts between Strzok and Page were given to Congress.

Meadows is particularly concerned with a text sent on Apr. 10, 2017.

“I had literally just gone to find this phone to tell you I want to talk to you about the media leak strategy with DOJ before you go,” Strzok wrote.

Thar text came a day before the Washington Post reported that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page had been surveilled by the FBI after the agency received a warrant from the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a move that has elicited backlash because it partly relied on details included in the unverified and so-called “Trump dossier” that contains damaging information about Trump.

But Strzok’s lawyer Aitan Goelman said the “media leak strategy” was a reference to a DOJ-wide initiative to identify and prevent staff members from disclosing information to the media.

Strzok was a leading official in the FBI’s investigation on Hillary Clinton’s private email server, and was also part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation examining Russian interference and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin.

Strzok was removed from the Mueller team last year and was fired from the FBI in August following his appearance before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees in July, where he said he did not speak to journalists during his time on the Russia probe.

Page resigned from her post in 2018.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/peter-strzok-lisa-page-texts-discuss-others-leaking-like-mad-ahead-of-russia-investigation-report

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Trump Tweets Criticism of FBI, DOJ on ‘Media Leak Strategy’ of Peter Strzok, Lisa Page

September 11, 2018

President Trump lamented on Tuesday that “nothing is being done” to investigate former FBI agent Peter Strzok and his mistress Lisa Page after a report said they had planned a “media leak strategy” to embarrass the president.

“New Strzok-Page texts reveal ‘Media Leak Strategy.’ @FoxNews So terrible, and NOTHING is being done at DOJ or FBI – but the world is watching, and they get it completely,” the president wrote on his Twitter account.

A report late Monday on Fox News said GOP Rep. Mark Meadows sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to alert him to the actions of Strzok and Page that were revealed in newly released text messages.

“Review of these new documents raises grave concerns regarding an apparent systemic culture of media leaking by high-ranking officials at the FBI and DOJ related to ongoing investigations,” Meadows wrote in the letter.

He said the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee discovered a April 10, 2017, text from Strzok to Page that said: “I had literally just gone to find this phone to tell you I want to talk to you about media leak strategy with DOJ before you go.”

Then, two days later, Strzok reaches out to Page to congratulate her for planting two stories that were critical of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

“Well done, Page,” Strzok wrote.

Meadows’ letter notes that the Washington Post wrote a story on April 11, 2017, about the FBI receiving a FISA warrant to monitor Carter Page and that it had convinced a judge there was “probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia.”

The message “should lead a reasonable person to question whether there was a sincere desire to investigate wrongdoing or to place derogatory information in the media to justify a continued probe,” Meadows wrote in the letter.

Strzok worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into any links between Trump campaign officials and Russia but was removed after text messages between him and Page showed they were critical of the president.

He was fired by the FBI in August.

Page, a former FBI lawyer who had an affair with Strzok, also was removed from Mueller’s team. She has since resigned.

https://nypost.com/2018/09/11/trump-responds-to-strzok-page-texts-on-media-leak-strategy/

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Peter Strzok, Lisa Page conspired to leak anti-Trump stories to mainstream media

September 11, 2018

FBI agent Peter Strzok conspired with his in-house lover to leak anti-Trump stories to the media in spring 2017 when he headed the Russia probe into the Trump campaign, a congressman said on Monday.

Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican, sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein saying a House task force had just received a new shipment of Justice Department documents.

By  – The Washington Times – Monday, September 10, 2018

“Our review of these new documents raises grave concerns regarding an apparent systemic culture of media leaking by high-ranking officials at FBI and DOJ,” Mr. Meadows said. “Review of these new documents suggest a coordinated effort on the part of the FBI and DOJ to release information in the public domain potentially harmful to President Donald Trump’s administration.”

Mr. Meadows provided an example.

On April 10, 2017, Mr. Strzok text-messaged Lisa Page, his lover and then-FBI counsel, to discuss a “media leak strategy.”

“I had literally just gone to find this phone to tell you I want to talk to you about media leak strategy with DOJ before you go,” Mr. Strzok said.

Two days later, Mr. Strzok congratulated Ms. Page on two derogatory stories that appeared about Carter Page, a former Trump volunteer whom the FBI was wiretapping.

The Washington Post broke a story about the wiretap on April 11, Mr. Meadows said, which suggested Trumpconnections to Russia.

Mr. Strzok became famous for previously released text messages that showed a strong bias against Mr. Trump. At one point he told Ms. Page he had a plan to “stop” Mr. Trump.

In congressional testimony, Mr. Strzok denied that his bias affected how he conducted the Trump probe, saying that if he wanted to he could have leaked stories to the news media.

The Justice Department fired Mr. Strzok after a scathing inspector general report.

The Meadows letter to the Justice Department was first reported by journalist Sara Carter.

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Photo by: Manuel Balce Ceneta
FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok, testifies before a House Judiciary Committee joint hearing on “oversight of FBI and Department of Justice actions surrounding the 2016 election” on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 12. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Mr. Meadows told Mr. Rosenstein that the new discoveries should prompt the Justice Department to turn over messages from three other FBI and Justice officials who may have communicated with Mr. Strzok, Ms. Page and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Mr. Meadows also wants communications with Andrew Weissmann, a top deputy to Russia probe special counsel Robert Mueller.

The House task force investigating the FBI’s 2016-17 Trump probe is comprised of two of the chamber’s regular committees — Oversight and Government Reform, and Judiciary.

Testifying July 12 before the House task force, Mr. Strzok presented himself as a straight arrow who didn’t let his biases interfere with his 20-plus-year FBI career. He also handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation, which exonerated her, before quickly pivoting in July 2016 to the Russia-Trump probe.

“Let me be clear unequivocally and under oath, not once in my 26 years of defending our nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took. This is true for the Clinton email investigation, for the investigation into Russian interference and for every other investigation I have worked on. It is not who I am and it is not something I would ever do, period.”

He added, “There is, however, one extraordinarily important piece of evidence supporting my integrity, the integrity of the FBI and our lack of bias. In the summer of 2016, I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign.

“This information had the potential to derail and quite possibly defeat Mr. Trump, but the thought of expressing that or exposing that information never crossed my mind. That’s what FBI agents do every single day and that’s why I’m so proud of the bureau.”

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/sep/10/peter-strzok-lisa-page-conspired-leak-anti-trump-s/

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The secret documents Republicans want Trump to declassify this week

September 11, 2018

There is growing buzz among Hill Republicans that President Trump will act this week to declassify some key documents in the Trump-Russia investigation. Some in the GOP had hoped the documents would be released weeks ago – they’ve been asking with increasing urgency – but an internal White House debate apparently held that up.

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In any event, there are new GOP hopes that this will be the week. If the White House does act, these are the documents, some or all, that might be released:

1) More of the Carter Page FISA wiretap application. The release of a heavily-redacted version of the secret court application, and subsequent renewals, to wiretap the onetime Trump foreign policy aide has already shown that the FBI relied on the unverified Trump dossier. Now, Republicans want the president to declassify the rest of the application, or, failing that, to release about 20 key pages of it.

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Photo: Carter Page

By Byron York
The Washington Examiner

What is in it? Remember that fired FBI Director James Comey, in an interview with Fox News in connection with his new book, said that, yes, the dossier was included in the Page surveillance request, but that, “My recollection was, it was part of a broader mosaic of facts that were laid before the FISA judge to obtain a FISA warrant.” The 20 or so unreleased pages of the Page FISA application are said to shed light on Comey’s “mosaic” comment – that is, they will purportedly reveal more of the FBI’s reason for wiretapping Page. So far, no one in the public knows what those reasons are.

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2) The Bruce Ohr 302s. It’s possible that the Carter Page documents will be all that are declassified. But if more is released, the Ohr documents might be among them. The 302s refer to the FBI reports of its interviews with top Justice Department official Bruce Ohr. Remember that in the fall of 2016, with the presidential campaign going strong, the FBI decided to hire Christopher Steele to search for dirt on candidate Donald Trump. But the FBI had to terminate Steele as a source because he talked to the press. (Steele desperately wanted to help defeat Trump and tried hard to get his dossier allegations into the media.) But once the FBI terminated Steele, the bureau still used him as an informant. The method to do that was to have Steele talk to Ohr, and then Ohr talk to the FBI to pass on what Steele had told him. Those conversations between Ohr and the FBI were memorialized in so-called 302 reports. There are a dozen of them, and Republicans believe they will reveal a lot about what the FBI was doing in the Trump-Russia investigation at the end of the campaign, during the transition, and during the early months of the Trump presidency.

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Bruce Ohr

3) The Gang of 8 documents. This appears to be a grab-bag category referring to evidence the FBI presented to the so-called Gang of 8 – the chair and ranking member of House and Senate intelligence committees plus the majority and minority leader of House and Senate. The documents are said to shed light on what Republicans call “FISA abuse,” but it is not clear what they are.

It’s not certain the president with authorize the declassification of any of this. But if he does, the documents are said to represent a real step forward in the public’s knowledge of the actions of the intelligence community and law enforcement in the Trump-Russia investigation. Just exactly what those actions are might be known by later this week.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/the-secret-documents-republicans-want-trump-to-declassify-this-week

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What Started The Mueller Investigation? Trump May Declassify Documents That Expose The Answer

September 10, 2018

President Trump is reportedly on the verge of declassifying documents related to the government’s surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and FBI documents regarding Justice Department official Bruce Ohr.

House Republicans have recently pressed Trump to declassify the documents, which they claim undercuts the FBI and Justice Department’s rationale for opening an investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.

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Axios reported on Sunday that Trump’s allies say that he is close to declassifying the documents.

Sources familiar with Trump’s thinking have told The Daily Caller News Foundation over the past week that they believed Trump was close to releasing the documents.

Trump himself told The Daily Caller in an Oval Office interview on Sept. 4 that he is “very seriously” considering declassifying the documents. (RELATED: Full Transcript Of Trump’s Oval Office Interview With The Daily Caller)

One source told TheDCNF on Sunday that they expect Trump to declassify the documents “this week or next.” The source originally believed that the documents would be released last week but revised that assessment for reasons unknown.

“I’ve come to expect these things to take more time than expected,” the source told TheDCNF.

White House attorneys are said to be one roadblock to Trump declassifying the documents. The lawyers have reportedly counseled the Republican that declassifying the documents could be seen as a challenge to special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller is investigating possible obstruction of justice on the part of Trump.

Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight & Government Reform Committees have asked Trump to declassify summaries of interviews that the FBI conducted with Ohr, the former assistant deputy attorney general.

Ohr is of interest because of his links to the Steele dossier. Ohr’s wife, a Russia expert named Nellie, worked as a researcher for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired former British spy Christopher Steele to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia.

Steele wrote a 35-page dossier alleging a vast conspiracy of collusion between the Trump campaign and Kremlin.

Ohr was also in frequent contact with Steele before and after the 2016 election. Republicans have questioned why the FBI relied on Ohr to funnel information from Steele after the dossier author was fired as a confidential informant just before the election.

Republicans have also accused the FBI of abusing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process by relying heavily on the unverified dossier to obtain spy warrants against Page.

The dossier is cited extensively in four FISA warrants taken out against Page in 2016 and 2017.

Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence asked Trump in June to declassify 21 pages from the fourth and final Page FISA. Some sections of the FISAs have already been declassified. (RELATED: House Republicans Call On Trump To Declassify 21 Pages From Carter Page FISA)

https://dailycaller.com/2018/09/09/trump-declassify-bruce-ohr-carter-page/

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The New York Times fails to acknowledge the crises of public confidence

September 2, 2018

Test your knowledge of current events by answering this question: Which organization remains stuck in deep cover-up mode?

A) The FBI
B) The Roman Catholic Church
C) Both of the above
D) Neither of the above

If you get your news only from The New York Times, you believe the correct answer is D, neither of the above. Other people know the correct answer is C because they see the leaders of both organizations acting as if the public can’t handle the truth.

It is not my intent to suggest the FBI and the Vatican are in all ways comparable. Far from it.

By Michael Goodwin
Commentary

Yet they are in similar straits because each faces a crisis of public confidence. Those crises are severe because of internal decisions to parse, obscure and withhold important facts.

While a desire to protect historically valuable institutions from external harm is understandable, the goal cannot come at the expense of honesty and truth. When it does, the damage grows.

One result is that the same questions are being asked of both the Church and the FBI: What did their leaders know and when did they know it?

The Vatican’s failure to come clean about sexually abusive clerics has cost it dearly over the last 15 years, and the consequences are now engulfing Pope Francis.

In a sensational 11-page letter, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano accuses the pope of bringing into his inner circle a disgraced former American cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, despite knowing McCarrick had a long history of sexual misconduct.

Vigano, a former Vatican ambassador to the US, calls on the pope to resign and declares that there are ­“homosexual networks” corrupting the Church from within.

He writes that many current priests and bishops committed immoral, forbidden acts or protected the guilty from exposure.

He accuses, by name, about 30 former and current officials, many of them in America. Perhaps most damaging, he says he personally told the pope in 2013 about McCarrick’s record but the pontiff still released McCarrick from sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict.

Vigano writes that by doing so, Francis “associated himself in doing evil with someone he knew to be deeply corrupt. He followed the advice of someone he knew well to be a pervert, thus multiplying exponentially with his supreme authority the evil done by McCarrick.”

The scathing letter requires a full Vatican response, but the pope declined, telling reporters: “Read it carefully and make your own judgment. I will not say a single word about it.”

I suspect that won’t be his final word. The letter is so explicit and specific about events and individuals that silence will be ruinous to the Church’s credibility. Catholic news organizations are digging into the claims and some normally supportive lay Catholics already believe it’s possible the pope’s reign will be short as a result.

A clear exception is The New York Times, which is politicizing the issue by accusing Vigano of being part of an anti-gay, conservative cabal, a sort of deep state within the Vatican. The pope, on the other hand, is depicted as a compassionate progressive out to save the Church from the ignorance of men like Vigano.

By seeing the issue through the lens of its own prejudices, the Times, which never had much use for the Church, tries to obscure the only thing that matters: Is the pope guilty as charged? Everything else is noise.

Similarly, the Times and other liberal media are obscuring all that matters in the investigation of the FBI: Is the agency guilty of trying to sabotage Donald Trump before and after the 2016 election? Yes or no.

As with the Church, we can’t say for certain if the FBI cover-up is worse than the crime because the cover-up continues. By releasing information drip by drip, and only when it’s forced to, America’s premier law-enforcement agency confirms the worst suspicions.

The latest example involves the congressional testimony of Bruce Ohr, a top Justice Department official who continued to meet with and accept information from Christopher Steele long after the FBI fired Steele for lying.

Steele, of course, is the former British spy secretly hired by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to dig up dirt on Trump in Russia. Steele fed his salacious, unverified claims to the FBI, which then briefly hired Steele and used his work to get a surveillance warrant against Trump associate Carter Page.

In leaked portions of his testimony, Ohr said he warned the FBI that Steele was determined to block Trump’s election and that Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, a Russian specialist, was working with Steele in compiling the anti-Trump manifesto. Such facts would help a judge get a balanced view of Steele’s motives and the FBI’s conflicts of interest.

But the FBI reportedly never mentioned Ohr’s warnings to FISA judges or admitted it fired Steele. And now we learn, thanks to a Judicial Watch lawsuit, that FISA judges never held a single hearing before approving the request to spy on Page.

This month marks the two-year anniversary of those events, but still the public remains largely in the dark about what appears to be a an illicit attempt by the FBI to block Trump’s election.

At a Thursday rally, the president demanded that officials come clean, warning that if they don’t, “I will get involved.”

What’s he waiting for? He has the power to declassify the documents involved, and should use it immediately.

By doing so, Trump would keep his promise of transparency. And perhaps the pope would take the hint and do the same with secret Church documents.
After all, miracles can happen.

https://nypost.com/2018/09/01/the-new-york-times-fails-to-acknowledge-the-crises-of-public-confidence/

Agents Tried to Flip Russian Oligarchs. The Fallout Spread to Trump.

September 2, 2018

In the estimation of American officials, Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin, has faced credible accusations of extortion, bribery and even murder.

They also thought he might make a good source.

Between 2014 and 2016, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department unsuccessfully tried to turn Mr. Deripaska into an informant. They signaled that they might provide help with his trouble in getting visas for the United States or even explore other steps to address his legal problems. In exchange, they were hoping for information on Russian organized crime and, later, on possible Russian aid to President Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to current and former officials and associates of Mr. Deripaska.

Justice Department officials tried to turn the oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska into an informant as they sought information on Russian organized crime and, later, on possible Russian aid to President Trump’s 2016 campaign. Credit Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

In one dramatic encounter, F.B.I. agents appeared unannounced and uninvited at a home Mr. Deripaska maintains in New York and pressed him on whether Paul Manafort, a former business partner of his who went on to become chairman of Mr. Trump’s campaign, had served as a link between the campaign and the Kremlin.

The attempt to flip Mr. Deripaska was part of a broader, clandestine American effort to gauge the possibility of gaining cooperation from roughly a half-dozen of Russia’s richest men, nearly all of whom, like Mr. Deripaska, depend on President Vladimir V. Putin to maintain their wealth, the officials said.

By Kenneth P. Vogel and Matthew Rosenberg
The New York Times

Two of the players in the effort were Bruce G. Ohr, the Justice Department official who has recently become a target of attacks by Mr. Trump, and Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled a dossier of purported links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The systematic effort to win the cooperation of the oligarchs, which has not previously been revealed, does not appear to have scored any successes. And in Mr. Deripaska’s case, he told the American investigators that he disagreed with their theories about Russian organized crime and Kremlin collusion in the campaign, a person familiar with the exchanges said. The person added that Mr. Deripaska even notified the Kremlin about the American efforts to cultivate him.

But the fallout from the efforts is now rippling through American politics and has helped fuel Mr. Trump’s campaign to discredit the investigation into whether he coordinated with Russia in its interference in the election.

The contacts between Mr. Ohr and Mr. Steele were detailed in emails and notes from Mr. Ohr that the Justice Department turned over to Republicans in Congress earlier this year. A number of journalists, including some at conservative news outlets, have reported on elementsof those contacts but not on the broader outreach program to the oligarchs or key aspects of the interactions between Mr. Ohr, Mr. Steele and Mr. Deripaska.

The revelation that Mr. Ohr engaged with Mr. Steele has provided the president’s allies with fresh fodder to attack the investigation led by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, casting it as part of a vast, long-running conspiracy by a “deep state” bent on undermining Mr. Trump. In their telling, Mr. Ohr and his wife — who worked as a contractor at the same research firm that produced the dossier — are villainous central players in a cabal out to destroy the president.

Mr. Trump himself has seized on the reports, threatening to pull Mr. Ohr’s security clearance and claiming that his family “received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier.”

While Mr. Steele did discuss the research that resulted in the dossier with Mr. Ohr during the final months of the campaign, current and former officials said that Mr. Deripaska was the subject of many of the contacts between the two men between 2014 and 2016.

A timeline that Mr. Ohr hand-wrote of all his contacts with Mr. Steele was among the leaked documents cited by the president and his allies as evidence of an anti-Trump plot.

The contacts between Mr. Steele and Mr. Ohr started before Mr. Trump became a presidential candidate and continued through much of the campaign.

Mr. Deripaska’s contacts with the F.B.I. took place in September 2015 and the same month a year later. The latter meeting came two months after the F.B.I. began investigating Russian interference in the election and a month after Mr. Manafort left the Trump campaign amid reports about his work for Russia-aligned political parties in Ukraine.

The outreach to Mr. Deripaska, who is so close to the Russian president that he has been called “Putin’s oligarch,” was not as much of a long shot as it might have appeared.

He had worked with the United States government in the past, including on a thwarted effort to rescue an F.B.I. agent captured in Iran, on which he reportedly spent as much as $25 million of his own money. And he had incentive to cooperate again in the run-up to the 2016 election, as he tried to win permission to travel more easily to the United States, where he has long sought more freedom to do business and greater acceptance as a global power broker.

Mr. Steele sought to aid the effort to engage Mr. Deripaska, and he noted in an email to Mr. Ohr in February 2016 that the Russian had received a visa to travel to the United States. In the email, Mr. Steele said his company had compiled and circulated “sensitive” research suggesting that Mr. Deripaska and other oligarchs were under pressure from the Kremlin to toe the Russian government line, leading Mr. Steele to conclude that Mr. Deripaska was not the “tool” of Mr. Putin alleged by the United States government.

The timeline sketched out by Mr. Ohr shows contacts stretching back to when Mr. Ohr first met Mr. Steele in 2007. It also shows what officials said was the first date on which the two discussed cultivating Mr. Deripaska: a meeting in Washington on Nov. 21, 2014, roughly seven months before Mr. Trump announced that he was running for president.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an initiative that remains classified. Most expressed deep discomfort, saying they feared that in revealing the attempts to cultivate Mr. Deripaska and other oligarchs they were undermining American national security and strengthening the grip that Mr. Putin holds over those who surround him.

But they also said they did not want Mr. Trump and his allies to use the program’s secrecy as a screen with which they could cherry-pick facts and present them, sheared of context, to undermine the special counsel’s investigation. That, too, they said they feared, would damage American security.

The program was led by the F.B.I. Mr. Ohr, who had long worked on combating Russian organized crime, was one of the Justice Department officials involved.

Mr. Steele served as an intermediary between the Americans and the Russian oligarchs they were seeking to cultivate. He had first met Mr. Ohr years earlier while still serving at MI6, Britain’s foreign spy agency, where he oversaw Russia operations. After retiring, he opened a business intelligence firm, and had tracked Russian organized crime and business interests for private clients, including one of Mr. Deripaska’s lawyers.

To facilitate meetings, the F.B.I. pushed the State Department to allow Mr. Deripaska to travel to New York on a Russian diplomatic passport as part of a Russian government delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. The State Department had previously rejected some of Mr. Deripaska’s efforts to secure visas to enter the United States — even as part of prior diplomatic delegations — but it approved diplomatic visa requests in 2015 and 2016.

One of the players in the effort to cultivate Mr. Deripaska was Bruce G. Ohr, the Justice Department official who has recently become a target of attacks by Mr. Trump over his ties to the former British spy Christopher Steele. Credit Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Mr. Steele helped set up a meeting between the Russian and American officials during the 2015 trip. Mr. Ohr attended the meeting, during which the Americans pressed Mr. Deripaska on the connections between Russian organized crime and Mr. Putin’s government, as well as other issues, according to a person familiar with the events. The person said that Mr. Deripaska told the Americans that their theories were off base and did not reflect how things worked in Russia.

Mr. Deripaska would not agree to a second meeting. But one took place the next year, in September 2016, when F.B.I. agents showed up unannounced at his door in New York. By then, they were already investigating possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, and they pressed Mr. Deripaska about whether his former business partner, Mr. Manafort, had served as a link to the Kremlin during his time as Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman.

It was not only the F.B.I. that was concerned about Russian interference in the final months of the campaign. American spy agencies were sounding an alarm after months of intelligence reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russians, and Moscow’s hacking of Democratic Party emails. (American intelligence agencies would later conclude that the interference was real and that Russia had acted to boost Mr. Trump’s candidacy.)

There was also a growing debate at the highest levels of the Obama administration about how to respond without being seen as trying ttip the presidential election toward Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Deripaska, though, told the F.B.I. agents that while he had no love for Mr. Manafort, with whom he was in a bitter business dispute, he found their theories about his role on the campaign “preposterous.” He also disputed that there were any connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to the person familiar with the exchange.

The Justice Department’s efforts to cultivate Mr. Deripaska appear to have fizzled soon after, amid worsening relations between the United States and Russia.

This past April, the Treasury Department imposed potentially crippling sanctions against Mr. Deripaska and his mammoth aluminum company, saying he had profited from the “malign activities” of Russia around the world. In announcing the sanctions, the Trump administration cited accusations that Mr. Deripaska had been accused of extortion, racketeering, bribery, links to organized crime and even ordering the murder of a businessman.

Mr. Deripaska has denied the allegations, and his allies contend that the sanctions are punishment for refusing to play ball with the Americans.

Yet just as it was becoming clear that Mr. Deripaska would provide little help to the Americans, Mr. Steele was talking to Mr. Ohr about an entirely new issue: the dossier.

In summer 2016, Mr. Steele first told Mr. Ohr about the research that would eventually come to make up the dossier. Over a breakfast in Washington, Mr. Steele said he believed that Russian intelligence had Mr. Trump “over a barrel,” according to a person familiar with the discussion. But the person said that it was more of a friendly heads-up, and that Mr. Steele had separately been in touch with an F.B.I. agent in a bid to get his work to investigators.

The research by that point was being funded by the Democratic National Committee and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, and Mr. Steele believed that what he had found was damning enough that he needed to get it to American law enforcement.

F.B.I. agents would later meet with Mr. Steele to discuss his work. But former senior officials from the bureau and the Justice Department have said that the investigation into ties between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia was well underway by the time they got the dossier.

Nonetheless, Mr. Trump and his allies have seized on the fact that Mr. Ohr and Mr. Steele were in touch about elements of the dossier to attack the investigation into Russian election interference as a “rigged witch hunt.”

Mr. Trump and his allies have cast Mr. Steele’s research — and the serious consideration it was given by Mr. Ohr and the F.B.I. — as part of a plot by rogue officials and Mrs. Clinton’s allies to undermine Mr. Trump’s campaign and his presidency.

The role of Mr. Deripaska has gotten less attention, but it similarly offers fodder for the theory being advanced by the president’s defenders.

Among the documents produced to Congress by the Justice Department is an undated — and previously unreported — note handwritten by Mr. Ohr indicating that Mr. Deripaska and one of his London-based lawyers, Paul Hauser, were “almost ready to talk” to American government officials regarding the money that “Manafort stole.”

Even after the concerted effort to cultivate Mr. Deripaska appeared to have broken down, and as he was emerging as a subject of increasing interest in inquiries into ties between Mr. Trump’s circle and Russia, both sides continued sporadic outreach.

Last year, Mr. Ohr asked someone who communicated with Mr. Deripaska to urge the oligarch to “give up Manafort,” according to a person familiar with the exchange. And Mr. Deripaska sought to engage with Congress.

The oligarch took out newspaper advertisements in the United States last year volunteering to testify in any congressional hearings examining his work with Mr. Manafort. The ads were in response to an Associated Press report that Mr. Manafort had secretly worked for Mr. Deripaska on a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin government” in the mid-2000s.

Mr. Deripaska deplored that assertion as “malicious” and a “lie,” and subsequently sued The A.P. for libel, though he later dropped his appeal of a judge’s ruling dismissing the lawsuit without receiving a settlement or payment.

Soon after the advertisements ran, representatives for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees called a Washington-based lawyer for Mr. Deripaska, Adam Waldman, inquiring about taking his client up on the offer to testify, Mr. Waldman said in an interview.

What happened after that has been in dispute. Mr. Waldman, who stopped working for Mr. Deripaska after the sanctions were levied, said he told the committee staff that his client would be willing to testify without any grant of immunity, but would not testify about any Russian collusion with the Trump campaign because “he doesn’t know anything about that theory and actually doesn’t believe it occurred.”

“I told them that he would be willing to talk about Manafort,” Mr. Waldman added.

Mr. Waldman said he did not hear back from the committee’s staff members, but he contends that they played a role in pushing the claim that the talks over Mr. Deripaska’s potential testimony had fallen apart because he demanded immunity.

“We specifically told them that we did not want immunity,” Mr. Waldman said. “Clearly, they did not want him to testify. What other conclusion could you possibly draw?”

Follow Kenneth P. Vogel and Matthew Rosenberg on Twitter: @kenvogel and @AllMattNYT

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: U.S. Agents Tried To Turn Oligarch Into an Informer.

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/01/us/politics/deripaska-ohr-steele-fbi.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

Related:

Russian Oligarch And Putin Pal Admits To Collusion, Secret Meetings, with Obama Administration

September 2, 2018

Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close associate of Vladimir Putin, has gone on record with The Hill‘s John Solomon – admitting to colluding with Americans leading up to the 2016 US election, except it might not be what you’re thinking.

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Deripaska, rumored to be Donald Trump’s “back channel” to Putin via the Russian’s former association with Paul Manafort, says he “colluded” with the US Governmentbetween 2009 and 2016.

In 2009, when Robert Mueller was running the FBI, the agency asked Deripaska to spend $25 million of his own money to bankroll an FBI-supervised operation to rescue a retired FBI agent – Robert Levinson, who was kidnapped in 2007 while working on a 2007 CIA contract in Iran. This in and of itself is more than a bit strange.

Deripaska agreed, however the Obama State Department, headed by Hillary Clinton, scuttled a last-minute deal with Iran before Levinson could be released. He hasn’t been heard from since.

FBI agents courted Deripaska in 2009 in a series of secret hotel meetings in Paris; Vienna; Budapest, Hungary, and Washington. Agents persuaded the aluminum industry magnate to underwrite the mission. The Russian billionaire insisted the operation neither involve nor harm his homeland. -The Hill

In other words – Trump’s alleged “back channel” to Putin was in fact an FBI asset who spent $25 million helping Obama’s “scandal free” administration find a kidnapped agent, Deripaska’s admitted.

 

Steele, Ohr and the 2016 US Election

As the New York Times frames it, distancing Deripaska from the FBI (no mention of the $25 million rescue effort, for example), the Russian aluminum magnate was just one of several Putin-linked Oligarchs the FBI tried to flip.

The attempt to flip Mr. Deripaska was part of a broader, clandestine American effort to gauge the possibility of gaining cooperation from roughly a half-dozen of Russia’s richest men, nearly all of whom, like Mr. Deripaska, depend on President Vladimir V. Putin to maintain their wealth, the officials said. –NYT

Central to the recruiting effort were two central players in the Trump-Russia investigation; twice-demoted DOJ #4 officialBruce Ohr and Christopher Steele – the author of the largely unverified “Steele Dossier.”

Steele, a longtime associate of Ohr’s, worked for Deripaska beginning in 2012 researching a business rival – work which would evolve to the point where the former British spy was interfacing with the Obama administration on his behalf – resulting in Deripaska regaining entry into the United States, where he visited numerous times between 2009 and 2017.

The State Department tried to keep him from getting a U.S. visa between 2006 and 2009 because they believed he had unspecified connections to criminal elements in Russia as he consolidated power in the aluminum industry. Deripaska has denied those allegations…

Whatever the case, it is irrefutable that after he began helping the FBI, Deripaska regained entry to the United States. And he visited numerous times between 2009 and 2017, visa entry records show. –The Hill

Deripaska is now banned from the United States as one of several Russians sanctioned in April in response to alleged 2016 election meddling.

In a September 2016 meeting, Deripaska told FBI agents that it was “preposterous” that Paul Manafort was colluding with Russia to help Trump win the 2016 election. This, despite the fact that Deripaska and Manafort’s business relationship “ended in lawsuits, per The Hill – and the Russian would have every reason to throw Manafort under the bus if he wanted some revenge on his old associate.

So the FBI and DOJ secretly collaborated with Trump’s alleged backchannel over a seven-year period, starting with Levinson, then on Deripaska’s Visa, and finally regarding whether Paul Manafort was an intermediary to Putin. Deripaska vehemently denies the assertion, and even took out newspaper advertisements in the US last year volunteering to testify to Congress, refuting an AP report that he and Manafort secretly worked on a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin government” a decade ago.

Soon after the advertisements ran, representatives for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees called a Washington-based lawyer for Mr. Deripaska, Adam Waldman, inquiring about taking his client up on the offer to testify, Mr. Waldman said in an interview.

What happened after that has been in dispute. Mr. Waldman, who stopped working for Mr. Deripaska after the sanctions were levied, said he told the committee staff that his client would be willing to testify without any grant of immunity, but would not testify about any Russian collusion with the Trump campaign because “he doesn’t know anything about that theory and actually doesn’t believe it occurred.” –NYT

In short, Deripaska wants it known that he worked with the FBI and DOJ, and that he had nothing to do with the Steele dossier.

Today, Deripaska is banned anew from the United States, one of several Russians sanctioned in April by the Trump administration as a way to punish Putin for 2016 election meddling. But he wants to be clear about a few things, according to a statement provided by his team. First, he did collude with Americans in the form of voluntarily assisting and meeting with the FBI, the DOJ and people such as Ohr between 2009 and 2016.

He also wants Americans to know he did not cooperate or assist with Steele’s dossier, and he tried to dispel the FBI notion that Russia and the Trump campaign colluded during the 2016 election. –The Hill

Interestingly, Steele’s dossier which was partially funded by the Clinton campaign, relied on senior Kremlin officials.

It would be most helpful if the Department of Justice could please investigate and then prosecute themselves and/or members of the previous administration, so that journalists like John Solomon, Sara Carter, Luke Rosiak, Chuck Ross and others don’t have to continue to break stories that are seemingly ignored by all but a handful of Congressional investigators.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-09-01/russian-oligarch-and-putin-pal-admits-collusion-secret-meetings